Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson met with the media at Chop Fest on Saturday at SunTrust Park. In the interview, he discussed his return from the torn ligament in his left hand that was revealed in September and how he has used the offseason to recover from the surgery to repair the ligament. The interview was edited for brevity.
Q: How do you feel?
A: I’m doing good. Definitely is going to make a big difference because you know I’ve been dealing with it pretty much all year. And the issue I had kind of led to more issues, which was kind of just was like a big domino effect. But being able to get that taken care of will make a big difference. I just believe that it kind of apprehended me a lot of the year, having to manage that more so than actual playing, and the injuries instead of being able to focus on the baseball. So I’m definitely happy that I got it done, and Dr. (Gary) Lourie (the Braves’ team doctor) and his whole team obviously did great, and the rehab has been, I don’t to say it’s like slow in a bad way, but it’s been just what I need. I’m very thankful that the training staff and everyone is on the same page and been able to help get me to a point that I can start to move forward.
Q: You talk about managing it, are you talking about having to adjust the swing because of the pain or are you talking about just missing days because of it?
A: I mean it’s a combination of a lot. I mean, at the end of the day, your daily routine changes because you’re not allowed to do stuff that you normally would be doing. I’m kind of just going to have to manage everything based on how you feel on that day. Just kind of got to roll with what you got that day, that’s how I kind of started to look at it. It can be tough, it’s not making excuses, it’s whatever. But it’s just a part of it. I will be better for it, which is the nice part about getting everything fixed.
Q: Did the loose body, would it kind of move around and that would cause more discomfort? Would it lodge in a certain place?
A: Oh, yeah, whenever I moved in certain directions it would basically slide in and out of my joint and really mess with my hand. There would be times it would go in that joint and my hand would literally like freeze. It was like if you were to like slam a door stop into a door, like a wedge into the door, that was pretty much what was going on.
Q: When do you think you first felt it? I know you were shut down there in the beginning of May.
A: It was the cold day in Chicago (on April 14, a cold, rainy day with high winds).
Q: When you think about some of the balls that you hit before that, did you feel like you were where you needed to be at that point in time to have the season you wanted?
A: Yeah, at that point in the year everything else was good. And then it kind of just got worse and worse and worse after the Chicago incident. And then I went on the DL, and then it kind of threw a roadblock almost into the season. It always seems like things like that happen when you are going good, you know it doesn’t seem like it happens when things are going bad. So it is tough to get rhythm back, especially not being able to swing at all, you know for a week, week and a half, you kind of just lose feel and all that kind of stuff. Did a bunch of things to try and keep it. It was tough, but yeah I think it split the year into different points. But definitely looking forward to getting back to it, to the good moments and stick with those.
Q: What was it that day in Chicago, was it being slick or being so cold?
A: Just being so cold, I think. I think being cold, I think the combination of that and with the weather in general with the rain and being outside there for that long, because it was a long game, we scored how many runs they ended up scoring. Just the duration didn’t really help either.
Q: Did they show you what they found in there?
A: Oh yeah, basically it’s a loose body of cartilage that built up over time about the size of a lima bean. So it was pretty nasty.
Q: Being a young player, did you feel like you put pressure on yourself to play through this injury because you are young and don’t want to lose your spot?
A: No, that’s not how I look at it. I play because I want to play, I play because I want to win. I feel that if I’m out there we have a better chance to win, just because I truly believe that. I can make a difference in other ways more than just the performance. There’s more things that go into it than just that. But it was never about me and the pressure, it’s just really about because I love my teammates and I want to play.
Q: So you endured all that last year, and still played defense pretty well, and you guys succeeded. Did you learn anything about yourself last year in terms of mental strength?
A: I don’t know, I’ve always been tough. But I mean at the end of day it’s not to say that you can’t get tougher and better and more consistent mentally. And it’s just another way of doing stuff, another way of challenging yourself and learning. So definitely looking forward to apply that kind of stuff. It’s pretty similar to my freshman year at Vandy when I was hurt the whole year. You get to look at things from a little bit of a different perspective, which is always nice, which is what this offseason has been good for, being able to look at everything from a different point of view, and kind of rally sit back for a moment and see what you got.
Q: Where are you right now? Are you hitting off tee right now?
A: Yeah I’ve hit off tee twice this week, so it’s not slow in a bad way, but a slow progression. Just a conservative approach because there is no need to be midseason form the second week of spring training. I want to be able to manage that and be able to get rolling just in time for the season to start and be ready for the whole year.
Q: You look back a couple of years ago and you had a back or oblique or whatever it was. Now that you’re older, you know it doesn’t matter if you miss a couple of weeks of spring training. In other words, you having to take things slow this spring it doesn’t matter.
A: Oh yeah in spring training. How I look at it is like, the word I use is how to better manage what it is I need to be doing and where it is I need to be and what I need to feel at which point. Sometimes, especially part of it’s being young and not knowing, but it’s also just being young and you want to come in ready to prove something, which is fine, you know that mindset. But you know coming in tip-top physical shape, and being like ready to play for the season to start, you’re kind of already prolonging the season a little bit. You are adding six weeks to yourself instead of being able to come in where you need to be, and then work to the point that you are midseason form for the opening game. It’s just a different way of looking at it really.