INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – One aspect easily gleaned from Travis Swaggerty is the pride that he takes in his defense as a center fielder. He loves to range to catch the ball, and he loves to throw. Up until this season, he has rarely worked anywhere other than center field.
In his time in Pittsburgh, Swaggerty got a different look. All-Star Bryan Reynolds has put a stranglehold on center field with the Pirates, which pushed Swaggerty to the corner outfield positions for the first time.
A big adjustment, Swaggerty said, was the angle the ball takes. Center field doesn’t have to deal with a slice or a hook in the same way as a corner outfielder dealing with a line. A big learning moment is knowing when to defer to the center fielder.
“It feels like you have a little less space in the corners, and having a guy like Bryan Reynolds in center, I have to know where he’s at,” Swaggerty said. “He has range, and obviously I have to let him go get balls that he can get. I kinda had to rein it in a little bit, because I want to go get everything, being a center fielder.”
While Swaggerty was essentially learning the new role on the fly, he said that the work in batting practice and pregame was his key to the progression.
“I think BP is a big deal,” Swaggerty said. “Live shagging is a big deal when guys are hitting BP, because you’re getting a lot of that slice. You’re gonna get a lot of balls too. It’s just about getting as many reads as possible. You’re not gonna get that many in the game, so BP is really important.“
Now, since being optioned back to Indianapolis, Swaggerty is getting opportunities to work in the corner outfield positions.
Swaggerty does have some experience in right field, where he played a bit in high school and college. He prefers the throw from right field to third base, but finds the throws from left field to be different as a left-hander.
“There’s a lot of counter turning and having to deal with some run on the ball, because of the angle and how I’m throwing. It’s harder to really get behind the ball in left and create the angle unless you’re going home. I’m taking pride in the work I’m doing with the counter turn, to be in a better position to throw, and still get true backspin on the ball.“
While he clearly enjoys playing centerfield, Swaggerty acknowledged that he is happy to do whatever helps the team.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS+ posts
Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.