According to the often cruel and always unforgiving lexicon of baseball, Will Swanner moved off the bingo card and onto the interstate Tuesday night.
Before long, the Mendoza line will be a distant memory, and only then will the Modesto Nuts’ catcher feel good about looking at his batting average as posted on the scoreboard during each at-bat.
Swanner had his first two-hit game of the season in the Nuts’ 4-3 victory over Visalia, and is showing signs of relaxing at the plate.
He’s considered one of the top catching prospects in the Colorado organization, a status earned during a breakout 2012 season in Asheville, during which he hit .302 with 16 homers.
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His success with the South Atlantic League champion Tourists cast Swanner in the role as the Nuts’ middle-of-the-order run producer, which he marked by falling flat in Modesto’s opening 13 games.
Entering Tuesday, Swanner was hitting a Bingo-esque .080, but his two hits boosted his average to the freeway (.143,) and only a couple of hits from rising above .200, or the Mendoza line.
He’s not worried, nor should he be, as Modesto hit the one-tenth pole of the season in Wednesday’s series finale against the Rawhide.
“I’m not worried at all,” Swanner said. “I mean, look at Todd Helton. He went two for his first 24, and if Todd Helton can do that, it makes me feel a little better. You just have to come out and do your work and get better. You can’t focus on the first few games of the season.”
Swanner admits to having an extra set of nerves showing during the Nuts’ opening road trip through San Bernardino and Lancaster. He and outfielder Brian Humphries are the lone Southern California natives on the Modesto roster, and Swanner - from the North San Diego County town of Cardiff-by-the-Sea - had his own personal rooting section on hand for every game.
“My whole family was there,” Swanner said. “My grandparents, my girlfriend and my parents. It was a lot of pressure being from San Diego. I was so amped up being the California guy opening the season in the California League and was trying so hard to make a good debut. I’ve been really anxious and excited to be playing here.”
But it would have been even worse, Swanner said, had the Nuts started the season in Lake Elsinore - the league’s southernmost outpost.
“Had we opened in Lake Elsinore my friends and family would have been rooting against us,” Swanner said. “They’re all Padres fans.”