Dansby Swanson returns to Atlanta with the Chicago Cubs, plus a Jeimer Candelario injury update and Ian Happ’s walks – Boston Herald
Dansby Swanson perched on the top step of the visitors dugout Tuesday night at Truist Park, a familiar yet inherently different perspective.
Swanson, in his Cubbie blue jersey, took in the Atlanta Braves’ almost two-minute tribute video before the Cubs’ series opener in his homecoming. He tipped his hat to the crowd in acknowledgment of their ovation and to where he won a World Series title with his childhood team.
“I just want to be able to soak it all in when it does happen,” Swanson said beforehand. “I spent, six, seven years of my career here and nothing but great memories and support from everyone from obviously the people up top to the guys that you grind it out with every day to obviously the fans here. Everyone’s always showing me a lot of love and respect and especially when it’s your hometown and where you grew up, it obviously means a ton, if not a little bit more so.
“I‘ve been so grateful to play for the fan bases in general: Braves fans are everywhere from TBS, Cubs fans are everywhere from WGN. And the loyalty runs so deep, being able to experience that on both sides it’s been nothing short of amazing. It’s definitely a blessing.”
Swanson was able to spend Monday’s off day at his parents’ home where he enjoyed a home-cooked meal — creamed corn and friend okra, his favorite — and recharged ahead of the Cubs’ final six games.
“Everybody over there, everybody here knows I’m very competitive so it wouldn’t really matter the stakes, like, I think winning is always the most important thing and will continue to be that way for probably as long as I live whether I’m playing or coaching or whatever I’m doing,” Swanson said. “So it’s just a great opportunity for us to come out here and really build some momentum over the next few games.”
Swanson’s trip home would be an ideal time for the shortstop to turn around his offensive funk when the Cubs need it the most. Entering Tuesday, Swanson is hitting .219 with a .289 on-base percentage and .650 OPS over his last 187 plate appearances dating to Aug. 7, a span of 44 games.
Jeimer Candelario nearing a return
Last week, manager David Ross thought infielder Jeimer Candelario could return over the weekend as the Cubs wrapped up their regular-season home slate or be back for Tuesday’s series opener in Atlanta.
Candelario wasn’t quite ready to come off the 10-day injured list from a back injury that has sidelined him since Sept. 12. However, Ross said Tuesday that Candelario is “really, really close” to being activated and in the lineup, potentially as soon as Wednesday.
Candelario might get live at-bats pregame Wednesday before a determination is made. The Cubs want to ensure once Candelario is activated he can stay in the lineup the rest of the way without concern for his back.
Those live looks for Candelario pregame Wednesday could come against right-hander Adbert Alzolay. Alzolay played catch Tuesday and if he felt good coming out of it, the next step would be facing hitters. A depleted and tested bullpen would get a huge lift whenever Alzolay can come off the IL. There is optimism that can happen before the end of the regular season.
Ian Happ is a walk machine
Ian Happ’s plate approach has been a staple of his offensive game since early in his big-league career, posting the best walk rate of his career in 2018.
Despite stretches where he hasn’t produced the type of slug the Cubs have come to expect from him, Happ’s ability to work counts and draw walks has made him a regular in the No. 3 spot of Ross’ lineup. His 98 walks coming into Tuesday are fourth in the majors and the most by a Cub since Carlos Peña’s 101 walks in 2011.
Happ is one of four players in MLB this season to tally at least 75 RBIs and 95 walks, joining Atlanta’s Matt Olson, San Diego’s Juan Soto and Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber.
“When you control the strike zone as Ian has in his career and takes pride in that and it’s part of his game, it makes you throw it in the zone and he has power,” Ross said. “There’s a real threat in there so sometimes you scare guys out of the zone. Nico on base in front of him also causes a little bit of havoc when he’s at the plate so that creates a little bit of a distraction and disruption.”
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