Chicago Sun-Times


Swanson’s preparedne­ss already has made big effect

- MADDIE LEE CUBS BEAT | @maddie_m_lee

MESA, Ariz. — Before meeting with the Cubs in December, then-free-agent shortstop Dansby Swanson read through a packet his agents had put together on the team, jotting down notes as he went.

‘‘It was an important meeting for both parties,’’ Swanson said. ‘‘It was important to be prepared going into meetings and to understand fully what I could potentiall­y be getting myself into.’’

He had taken that kind of approach with every team he considered, looking up and down prospect lists, digging into player performanc­e and finding out how many games individual­s played. The last of those was a big one for Swanson, who played all 162 games on the Braves’ schedule last season.

Swanson is only five spring-training games into his Cubs tenure, but his attention to detail already has come through in anecdote after anecdote.

‘‘The way the mind works stands out to me,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘He’s always thinking about how to get an edge. It’s a winning mindset. Everything he’s talking about or doing is either giving you a hard time about not being perfect or giving you a little bit of the knowledge that he’s learned in his time in other places. And it’s always surrounded by winning.’’

Take Swanson’s pre-pitch routine, for example. He’s not just waiting in the infield for PitchCom to tell him what’s coming. He calls his own game in his head, he said after coming out of a spring game Friday. And when something stands out to him, he talks with the pitcher about it.

‘‘As an infielder, I see certain things,’’ Swanson said. ‘‘I pick their brains on why they do certain things and give my input on what I believe and what I think and things to watch out for. So it’s really us just being able to help one another.’’

This particular edge has been part of Swanson’s game for the last three years, he said. He learned a lot about pitching from conversati­ons with Braves catching coach Sal Fasano and catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

‘‘I’m a believer of, if it’s gonna help us win, then I need to know about it and need to be able to help others with it, too,’’ Swanson said. ‘‘I just feel like it’s part of my duty, and I kind of enjoy it.’’

For Cubs left-hander Drew Smyly, who played with Swanson on the 2021 World Series champion Braves, those kinds of conversati­ons usually happened in between starts, when they were sitting on the bench together, swapping observatio­ns about how that day’s pitcher was attacking hitters.

Smyly, a 10-year veteran, acknowledg­es the game can feel slow for an observer, something MLB is trying to rectify with rule changes such as the pitch clock.

‘‘But in the moment, in real time, you’ve got a million thoughts going through your head, and it’s sped up,’’ Smyly said. ‘‘And the good players, they’re better at slowing it down and being able to process from pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat. Dansby’s really good at that.’’

Smyly could see it on the other side, facing Swanson, too. It was almost like going up against a catcher who was thinking along with the pitcher.

Outside of game action, Swanson’s attention to detail shows up in early work in the batting cage.

‘‘All the work that he does has a purpose,’’ hitting coach Dustin Kelly said. ‘‘There’s not a swing that he takes that doesn’t have the exact purpose of what he wants to accomplish. It’s not about getting loose or taking a couple of swings to feel his body. From the time he steps in the cage, there’s an agenda of what he wants to get done, how he wants to feel, and the work just dictates off of that.’’

Swanson’s preparatio­n and ‘‘winning mindset’’ were clear to Ross even when the Cubs were recruiting him. When Ross, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and general manager Carter Hawkins met with Swanson and his camp at a Maggiano’s Little Italy in Atlanta, Swanson pressed them on how the Cubs were going to win and how they were going to make him better.

Now that Ross sees Swanson every day, his preoccupat­ion with gaining an edge is, if anything, even more obvious.

‘‘He holds guys accountabl­e to that standard,’’ Ross said. ‘‘That’s the difference. And the details are what matter.’’

 ?? ASHLEY LANDIS/AP ?? Drew Smyly
 ?? JOHN ANTONOFF/SUN-TIMES ?? Manager David Ross says Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson is ‘‘always thinking about how to get an edge.’’
JOHN ANTONOFF/SUN-TIMES Manager David Ross says Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson is ‘‘always thinking about how to get an edge.’’
 ?? ??
 ?? AP ?? David Ross
AP David Ross

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