Dansby Swanson hits first spring-training home run as a Cub: ‘Felt great’

Swanson has been searching for his timing this spring.

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Shortstop Dansby Swanson hits his first spring training home run as a Cub at Sloan Park.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson hits his first spring training home run as a Cub at Sloan Park.

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — Some friendly ribbing from manager David Ross preceded Dansby Swanson’s first home run in a Cubs uniform.

“It kind of got me going a little, I’ll say that,” Swanson said after the Cubs’ 5-0 victory Sunday against the Royals. “It felt great, obviously. Anytime you can start to feel like you’re getting right on track for the start of the season is a big deal.

‘‘So I’m just excited that I contributed a little bit.”

Entering play, Swanson was 3-for-37 at the plate. He was working to get his timing back on track.

In his first at-bat, Swanson drilled three foul balls into the ground, two of them dribbling up the third-base line in foul territory, before eventually striking out looking.

In his second at-bat, he launched a two-run homer over the center-field fence. Ross was waiting to greet him with a hug.

“Just a little bit more of an aggressive mindset,” Swanson said. ‘‘It’s always beneficial for me because I can be a little bit passive at times. And it’s just something we’ve worked on and talked about more and more in the cage.”

Swanson also made four highlight-reel-worthy plays on defense. In the first inning, he snagged a smoked ground ball, sliding to his left. In the sixth, he made the same play to his backhand side. In the seventh, he made two plays up the middle — a spinning throw to first base with the bases empty and a flip behind him to second base with runners on.

“Unbelievable,” starter Justin Steele said. “That’s what he does.”

Steele’s last start

Steele threw six scoreless innings, bouncing back from his last start, when he said he felt like he was moving underwater.

“It feels good to get the last start of spring under my belt, get some good momentum going into season,” Steele said.

He allowed four hits and struck out six.

Hoerner returns

In his first game back in the lineup since last Tuesday, second baseman Nico Hoerner went 1-for-4 but made hard contact even on balls that didn’t fall in.

He had been out with tightness in his left biceps.

Hoerner played eight innings and also is slated to play Monday against the White Sox.

“That’s our plan right now,” Ross said Saturday. “And he feels really comfortable with that. I feel comfortable with that.

‘‘If it was [during the] season, [he’d be] probably playing through this whole thing. Right now, when in doubt, take an extra day.”

Clarke is back

Right-hander Chris Clarke was the only player the Cubs lost in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft in December. But on Sunday, the Mariners returned Clarke to the Cubs. A fourth-round pick in 2019, Clarke had a 5.40 ERA in seven relief appearances for Seattle this spring.

Cubs 5, Royals 0

• Shortstop Dansby Swanson had the longest defensive highlight reel Sunday, but every Cub in the infield made an impressive play, with second baseman Nico Hoerner diving up the middle, third baseman Patrick Wisdom fielding a chopper off his shoestrings and first baseman Eric Hosmer picking off-target throws.

• The Cubs scored all of their runs on a trio of homers from Wisdom, Swanson and Cody Bellinger.

• After Justin Steele held the Royals scoreless through six innings, relievers Keegan Thompson, Mark Leiter Jr. and Tyler Duffey finished the shutout.

On deck: White Sox at Cubs, 3:05 p.m. Monday, Mesa, Marquee, 670-AM, Mike Clevinger vs. Jameson Taillon.

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