Glenn Swanson officially made his return from Tommy John surgery on Friday night against the Stockton Ports.
The 25-year-old left-hander allowed two runs in four innings of work. He scattered eight hits and struck out seven batters without issuing a base on balls.
The Rangers' 49th round pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, Swanson signed with the Rangers just prior to the 2006 draft as a fifth-year senior draft-and-follow out of UC Irvine. He worked out of the bullpen with short-season Spokane and Single-A Clinton for the remainder of the '06 campaign.
Swanson began the 2007 season in Single-A Clinton, where he was converted back into a starting pitcher. He was impressive, going 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in seven starts. In 43 innings with the LumberKings, the southpaw struck out 42 while walking just six.
The San Diego native earned a promotion to High-A Bakersfield after his fast start in Clinton. Although Swanson posted a 4.87 ERA in seven starts with the Blaze, his numbers were somewhat inflated by his last outing, where he surrendered eight runs [and walked six] in 4.1 innings. Just a few days later, it would be announced that Swanson was set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.
Almost exactly one year and one month later, Swanson toed the rubber in the California League once again. He flashed a fastball that ranged between 82-86 mph, mostly sitting at 84. Even though Swanson doesn't possess an overpowering fastball, he was able to locate the pitch. Swanson recorded six of his seven strikeouts on fastballs. The other punchout came on a 76 mph changeup.
Swanson, who hides the ball well, got good arm action on the changeup, which faded down and away from right-handed hitters. But he wasn't able to rely on the pitch as much as usual on Friday because the Stockton lineup featured six left-handed hitters.
As Swanson mentions, he had trouble keeping both his fastball and changeup down early on, leading to the four-hit first inning. Swanson did a better job of commanding both pitches as the game progressed.
The lefty often went with his curveball, which looked to be a plus pitch, to combat the left-handers in the Ports lineup. Swanson showed excellent feel for the pitch [especially for someone still coming back from major arm surgery] by consistently dropping it in for strikes. The curve was a big-breaker that sat at 67-68 mph.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Swanson on the day after his first start back in the Cal League.
Jason Cole: How does it feel to finally be out of Arizona and officially done with the rehab process?
Glenn Swanson: It's kind of the culmination of everything that has gone on. That was the ultimate goal. That was definitely the first goal out of the set of goals that I've set for myself – to get out of there and to make it back to the affiliate that I was with before.
Cole: You made a few rehab starts in Arizona and then one in Spokane. How did you feel those went?
Swanson: They went great. They were definitely big confidence builders. I know that a lot of guys coming back from Tommy John and other kind of surgeries, they kind of struggle with their command and stuff like that. It kind of showed me to be confident with all my pitches because the command has been there. It definitely built some confidence for me.
Cole: You mentioned some guys struggling with command. Has there been any point, during or after rehab, where you felt that the command just wasn't there yet?
Swanson: In little bits and pieces. It hasn't been one day where it was just gone, but I've definitely had those days where it has all the way been on. Those are the ones that definitely built the confidence for me.
Cole: When guys are coming back from Tommy John, sometimes it takes them a bit to get the feel for their changeup or curveball again. Have you had anything like that?
Swanson: Yeah, the curveball was probably the toughest pitch to get back. Just getting the feel for it, not babying it, and stuff like that – actually throwing it with some conviction. The changeup and the fastball, when I was working with them, they definitely complemented each other and they felt good coming out pretty much from the start.
Cole: How did you feel about your first start back in Bakersfield?
Swanson: It went well. It could have gone better. I would've liked to have gone deeper in there, but I had some pitch count issues and I struggled to keep the ball down early in the game. But once I settled in, I think it definitely went well.
Cole: Did it feel any different from a start with Bakersfield last year?
Swanson: A little bit different feel, being the first game back here from surgery and all. But it was definitely a good atmosphere and it was a great chance for me to come out there and get some confidence for myself up at this level.
Cole: How did you feel about your curveball in the start?
Swanson: It was the first night where I think the curveball was actually doing what I wanted it to do. I could throw it for strikes and it was more of an out pitch for me than it had been in the past few starts that I've had.
Cole: How about your changeup?
Swanson: The changeup is kind of my go-to pitch, but they stocked the lineup with lefties, so the breaking ball was more of a go-to pitch tonight.
Cole: Did you throw a slider before the surgery?
Swanson: Yeah, I threw a slider and changed a little bit of arm angles. I'm kind of taking a break from that. I'm just kind of working on everything from a solid single arm slot. I'll work on fastball, curve, change from there.
Cole: What's the reason that you're taking a break from the slider? Does it put extra stress on your arm?
Swanson: I haven't felt that. I never felt that those were the kind of pitches that put the unnecessary stress on it. But just listening to some guys and hearing other guys who have had the surgery, they say to break yourself in slowly. If you're throwing with different arm angles, then maybe you want to hold off on that and really get a feel for your over the top before you start throwing at different angles.
Cole: So you're expecting to bring it back eventually?
Cole: Do you know when or are you just going to kind of see how it goes?
Swanson: I'm just going to kind of see how it goes. I think I'm going to start implementing it in some bullpens before the next few starts. I think by the end of this year, it might be back. If not, then there is always next year. I can definitely hone in on it in the offseason and work it in there in spring training.
Cole: What was your pitch count for your first start back here?
Swanson: I think it was in the 70-75 pitch range – somewhere in there. It's still not all the way where I want it to be, but it is a great start and I'm kind of building on it every outing.
Cole: Do you know how quickly they will be building it up until you're back to normal?
Swanson: I think they're probably going to take it pretty slow with me in this first little stint back. They just want to make the recovery process a little bit easier on my arm.
Cole: Has surgery changed your velocity at all?
Swanson: I'd say it has probably been a couple miles an hour down from what it was, but I'll sacrifice that any day for better command.
Cole: Once your arm gets stronger, are you expecting to get that velocity back?
Swanson: I actually feel [my arm] getting stronger pretty much every time I go out there. It's just getting everything in sync and really working down and stuff like that. Once I really work down, then I can really work on getting the ball out of my hand and getting that velocity up there again.
Cole: Aside from not throwing the slider right now, how have you changed as a pitcher since you went under the knife?
Swanson: Definitely with the surgery, I got to watch a lot of baseball. Something I always learned about was inexpensive experience – kind of learning without playing. So I kind of put myself in a lot of other people's game situations and I think definitely on the mental aspect I've improved more so than on the physical.
Cole: What are you looking for out of yourself from here until the end of the season?
Swanson: Just putting together quality outings – getting in that five, six inning range. I want to keep my pitch count down per inning and eliminate the two out hits and walks and things like that. Things like minimizing the damage in certain innings and building off good innings.
Cole: Since you only have probably six starts before the end of the season, have the Rangers said anything about you pitching after the year is over?
Swanson: No, they haven't discussed that with me.
Cole: Is that something you'd like to do if they bring it up?
Swanson: You know what, I love baseball. I've been around the game consistently for about 14 months since before the surgery and going through the rehab process. I'm not afraid to go out there and play some more ball and I think that would be fun.
Swanson solid in return to Cal League
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