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Erik Swanson Continues Developing While Rehabbing

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Erik Swanson (Photo courtesy of Robert Pimpsner/Pinstriped Prospects)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Nearly 18 months have passed since Erik Swanson came over to the Yankees from the Rangers, and the biggest thing the righthander says he’s learned isn’t a mechanical change or a new pitch.

It’s patience.

The 24-year-old righthander, who joined the Yankees organization with fellow righties Dillon Tate and Nick Green in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to Texas two summers ago, spent Monday night making a rehab start in Staten Island. He’s working his way back from a strained right groin suffered last month while pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Swanson started the season hot with Double-A Trenton, posting a mark of 5-0, 0.44 with 52 strikeouts in 40.2 innings before moving up to Scranton, where he found the road a little rockier. Although the strikeout and walk numbers are still good (29 to 5 in 24.2 innings), he also allowed 14 runs (all earned) in that span.

“You’ve got to be patient, especially at the lower levels, and you’ve got to take knowledge as it’s given to you,” Swanson said. “You can do what you want with it. You can do good things with it, you can ignore it and do bad things with it, but obviously that’s usually not the outcome that you want.”

That’s what Swanson said he told the pitchers who’ve come to him for advice during his three-week rehab process, which has included stops in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League as well as Staten Island. It also applies to his career.

Just like anybody else, Swanson has had to adjust and adapt throughout his career. Hitters are different at each level, and he’s had to learn new ways to attack them over the years.

“Learning how to pitch off my fastball has been a big thing with me,” he said. “I’ll throw inside to guys and keep them uncomfortable, which plays off a lot of my other pitches really well. I’m able to do what I want with each and every pitch and throw it with a purpose. That’s what’s given me success this year.”

Primarily, Swanson used three pitches on Monday night: A fastball that sat in the low 90s and touched as high as 95 mph, a developing high-80s slider that acted like a cutter, and a changeup in the mid-80s that got occasional swings and misses. The fastball featured late riding life up in the zone and occasional two-seam life as well. 

His arsenal has changed somewhat since the start of the year as well. He came into the year throwing more of a curveball, then he and his coaching staff decided to move him to a slider instead. 

“It’s been a good pitch for me so far,” Swanson said, referring to the slider, “but I’m still tweaking with certain things.”

As with most rehabbing pitchers, Swanson’s goals on Monday night revolved more around getting his work in and making sure everything felt good before heading back to Scranton to continue the rest of his season. A game is a game, though, and it still provides an opportunity to develop.

“He made a conscious effort to work on his secondary pitches, to really get a good feel for them before going back up,” Staten Island pitching coach Travis Phelps said. “He’s got a good fastball. It plays up all the time, and he had that today. Most of the time he pitches aggressively off the fastball, but he was finding his secondary pitches today.” 

With his rehab behind him, Swanson should be headed back to Scranton for his next turn, as he continues to work to establish himself among an organization packed with righthanded pitching prospects.

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