Dansby Swanson may be longshot for Braves’ NLDS roster
ATLANTA (AP) — Shortstop Dansby Swanson did not participate in the Atlanta Braves’ light workout Tuesday and appears to be a longshot to make the team’s roster for its NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Swanson partially tore a ligament in his left hand on a swing against the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard on Sept. 24. He had pain when he tried to swing a bat Saturday in Philadelphia and received more treatment Tuesday, remaining inside while his teammates were on the SunTrust Park field.
Manager Brian Snitker paused when asked if Swanson still has a chance to play when the Braves open the NLDS on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
“A chance,” Snitker said. “I don’t know how great of one, really. But we’ve had guys in situations like this who have come in the next day and been a lot better, so we’re just going to take it a day at a time.”
Braves players were not available to reporters on what was officially a day off.
Charlie Culberson, who excelled for the Dodgers in the 2017 postseason , would be Atlanta’s starting shortstop if Swanson does not show dramatic improvement. That would strain Atlanta’s already thin bench. Ryan Flaherty could make the roster as a backup infielder.
Snitker said Culberson’s postseason experience will be “really big” because “it’s the maiden voyage for most concerned.”
Culberson hit .282 with eight homers after the All-Star break this season, and .270 with 12 homers overall.
Swanson hit .238 with 14 homers this season, including only .213 after the break.
One scenario discussed by Snitker and his staff is the possibility of keeping Swanson on the roster as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner.
“We’ve got to make sure he can go over there and handle the glove and make a play,” Snitker said, adding Swanson could be forced to hit even if he were to enter a game as a defensive replacement.
Snitker said he has more confidence in Lucas Duda’s recovery from a sore back. Duda, acquired from Kansas City on Aug. 29, took batting practice Tuesday and could make the roster as a left-handed pinch-hitter.
Snitker confirmed Mike Foltynewicz will start Thursday night’s game. Snitker has not released the remainder of his rotation. Anibal Sanchez and Kevin Gausman could start the next two games on Friday night in Los Angeles and Sunday night in Atlanta, leaving Julio Teheran and Sean Newcomb as top candidates for a possible fourth game in Atlanta.
Snitker said it “wasn’t hard at all” to pick Foltynewicz (13-10, 2.85 ERA) to lead the postseason rotation that does not include a clear-cut No. 1 starter. Foltynewicz was sharp in his last start , allowing one hit and one run in five innings in a win over the Phillies.
“We’ve wanted Folty to be the guy for a couple years now,” Snitker said. “To me right now he’s the guy who has established himself as a legit first guy. ... He’s pitching right now with a lot of confidence.”
Foltynewicz, 26, ranked sixth in the NL with 202 strikeouts.
An Atlanta team led by first baseman Freddie Freeman and “Baby Braves” Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies is entering its first postseason since 2013.
“It’s just part of the journey that we’ve been looking to go on,” Snitker said. “It’s a really fun time for all of the guys involved.”
This will be the first postseason as a manager for Snitker, who has been with the Braves organization since 1977, when he was a minor league player.
Snitker said he has leaned on the experience of former manager Bobby Cox, the Hall of Famer who still serves as a senior adviser. Snitker said Cox’s advice was “Keep it simple. Don’t try and make it something it’s not.”
“I’m kind of excited to see what it is. I’ve managed a lot of games but this is a little different,” he said. ”... I don’t have any fingernails. If I had any hair, I lost it.”