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Braves hopeful Swanson returns for NLDS

Shortstop's true test will be hitting next week, but left hand improving
MLB.com @mlbbowman

PHILADELPHIA -- Dansby Swanson's status for the National League Division Series will not be known until he accelerates his baseball activities early next week. But his left hand has improved enough over the past couple of days to give the Braves hope he'll be ready when the postseason begins.

"He's feeling a lot better than what he was," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's just good that he's moving it around, and they've done a good job of getting the blood out of there. They said it might be 48 hours. It's kind of going where we hoped it would."

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PHILADELPHIA -- Dansby Swanson's status for the National League Division Series will not be known until he accelerates his baseball activities early next week. But his left hand has improved enough over the past couple of days to give the Braves hope he'll be ready when the postseason begins.

"He's feeling a lot better than what he was," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's just good that he's moving it around, and they've done a good job of getting the blood out of there. They said it might be 48 hours. It's kind of going where we hoped it would."

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NLDS presented by Doosan, Game 1: Thu., 8:37 p.m. ET/5:37 p.m. PT on MLB Network

When Braves head physician Dr. Gary Lourie diagnosed Swanson with a partially torn ligament in his left hand on Wednesday, he said the following 48 hours would provide a sense of whether the shortstop might be ready by the time the NLDS begins on Thursday.

:: NLDS schedule and results ::

But while the progress has enhanced hope, the Braves will get a better understanding once Swanson begins taking dry swings and hitting off a tee, possibly as early as this weekend. The true test would come on Monday or Tuesday, when the infielder hopes to begin taking regular batting practice.

"Grabbing the bat and swinging will be the big test," Snitker said.

Swanson hit just .161 with a .526 OPS over the last 19 games he played through Tuesday, when he exited after tallying just one at-bat in a win against the Mets. He has provided minimal offensive value, but ranks sixth among all Major League shortstops with 10 Defensive Runs Saved.

Along with strengthening the team's defensive potential, Swanson's presence would also ease some of the current concerns about the bench the Braves could use during the NLDS. Valuable bench piece Charlie Culberson will serve as the Braves' shortstop while Swanson is sidelined.

If Swanson is placed on the NLDS roster, the five-man bench could include Culberson, Tyler Flowers, Lane Adams, Lucas Duda and either Rio Ruiz or Ryan Flaherty.

If Swanson is not ready for the start of the playoffs, the Braves' bench could include two right-handed hitters (Flowers and Adams) and two left-handed hitters (Duda and Flaherty). To create opportunities where Flowers could be used as a pinch-hitter, the Braves are contemplating carrying Rene Rivera as a third catcher.

Rivera has struck out in two of the three at-bats he has tallied since joining the Braves at the start of this month. But carrying him to simply create pinch-hit opportunities for either of their right-handed-hitting catchers (Flowers and Kurt Suzuki) may be more appealing than gambling on Adam Duvall, who has hit .118 (6-for-51) since joining the Braves.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Dansby Swanson