Giancarlo Stanton has conquered major league walls coast to coast with his tape-measure blasts. But, for the most part, the minor league fences of spring training haven’t been exposed to his awesome power.
The reason: Stanton has missed significant playing time the previous two springs because of a variety of leg injuries, a fact he hopes to rectify this year.
“It’s very important,” Stanton said. “But, at the same time, it’s out of my control. I can only maintain my body the best way I can and play as hard as I can.”
Stanton played in just six spring games in 2011 after sustaining a quad injury in the Marlins’ first exhibition. Last year, he played in eight games because of inflammation in his left knee.
Both times, Stanton got off to poor starts in April.
In 2011, he went homer-less in his first 14 games and finished with only two blasts the first month. Stanton said as late as May of that season that he was unable to run at full speed.
In 2012, he hit just one home run in April. Stanton acknowledged his slow starts could be attributed to his spring injuries.
“I’d say a good bit [of impact],” Stanton admitted.
Stanton has altered his training slightly in hopes of avoiding further setbacks this spring.
“If anything, I’m running a little bit more to have [my legs] more conditioned for being on my feet all day, and running around and stuff,” he said.
The Marlins are also planning to put him to increased use this spring, but mainly to prepare him for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Stanton has been selected to play for Team USA and will leave for Arizona on March 3.
“We’re going to have to speed up the process with him getting in shape because he’s got to be ready to play when he leaves here,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “We’re going to have to ramp it up a bit quicker with him. He’s going to have to play more. He’s got to be at least comfortable enough to go to the WBC and play nine innings. They’re not going to yank him out of there after two at-bats.”
Redmond said Stanton will often play back-to-back games early on, one in right field and the other as a designated hitter to help lighten the initial load. As an example, Stanton is expected to play in Orlando on Monday and back in Jupiter on Tuesday after receiving the day off Sunday.
“You’re not going to go from playing three innings every day to playing nine, so that’s the progression,” Stanton said.
Stanton played the Grapefruit League opener Saturday, driving in a pair of runs with a ground ball and a single. He said afterward that his legs felt fine.
“I can’t do much besides try to maintain,” he said. “There’s no, ‘Hey, let me come out here and not try to get injured.’ You can’t play timid.”
Stanton said his goal is to remain healthy throughout the season, something that has yet to happen.
Last year, Stanton had bone chips from his right knee in July and missed a month. The surgery cost Stanton a trip to the All-Star Game and probably cost him the home run title. He finished with 37 home runs in 123 games. Ryan Braun won the crown with 41 homers in 154 games.
“We’ve got to do it,” Stanton said of playing a full season. “We can’t just talk about it.”