NEW YORK -- Even though he’s from Los Angeles and a Lakers fan, Giancarlo Stanton never passed up an opportunity to go watch the Heat with LeBron James in town.
So what was Stanton’s reaction to Friday’s news James is headed back home to Cleveland?
“That’s obviously the biggest thing in sports in a while,” said Stanton, who on Friday was tabbed a 2-1 favorite to win Monday night’s Home Run Derby in Minneapolis, the site of Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
“It takes a lot of guts to do that,” Stanton continued. “I know he wanted to go home. It means a lot more to do that, to win in a place you grew up rather than just one of the teams you ended up on. The thing is he didn’t go with the big press conference like he did last time. He did what he was going to do, stayed quiet and did it the right way.”
Although Stanton said he never personally got to know James, he said he enjoyed going to see him play in person because he never got to see Michael Jordan in his prime. Stanton said he’s always enjoyed studying the greats.
“When you see the best guys on the planet at their particular craft win and lose, be on top of the world and the bottom, it helps you as a competitor learn from that,” Stanton said. “You pick things up that maybe you won’t have to go through yourself because you learned from something like that.”
With James on his way home, one could argue Stanton is the biggest sports attraction in South Florida. His tape-measure home runs and raw power have made him a household name in baseball, and Monday night he’ll have a chance to stretch it even further.
Manager Mike Redmond said Stanton belted several home runs into the upper decks at Citi Field during their first warmup for the derby on Friday. Redmond said one rocket shot even landed in the third deck.
Asked if he wants to win the derby, Stanton smiled Friday and said: “It’s a competition, man. If I wanted to stand there and look pretty, I’d just take selfies all day and post them up.”
Thursday’s off day for the Marlins provided closer Steve Cishek an opportunity to accomplish two things: get in a round of golf at Bethpage State Park in Long Island and to forget about blowing his third save of the season Wednesday at Arizona.
“That last game in Arizona was probably one of the toughest ones for me to get past just because we had a two-run lead,” Cishek said. “I got a chance to get my mind from baseball a little bit and take my frustrations out on a little white golf ball.”
Cishek went right back to work early Friday. After breaking down film, he and pitching coach Reid Cornelius were in the bullpen at Citi Field working on pitch location and arm slot for his slider.
Cishek said his arm feels fine. In fact, his fastball velocity has gone up over the past two months — a result he says of a steady workload and his arm getting stronger. It’s the slider, he said, that hasn’t been right over his past three or four appearances.
“I’m not driving it like I usually do,” he said. “I’m kind of falling off trying to make movement before it’s out of my hand — overdoing it basically instead of trusting it. I’m trying to get back on track with that.”
• Redmond said reliever A.J. Ramos, on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation since June 28, is scheduled to pitch in his first rehab assignment Monday for Double A Jacksonville. Redmond expects Ramos to be ready to rejoin the team after the break.
• Saturday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (6-7, 3.98 ERA) vs. New York Mets RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-3, 3.32), 4:10 p.m., Citi Field.
• Sunday: Marlins LHP Brad Hand (0-1, 5.09) vs. Mets RHP Jacob de Grom (2-5, 3.38), 1:10 p.m., Citi Field.