Giancarlo Stanton was originally scheduled to be the Marlins’ designated hitter on Sunday. But Stanton didn’t feel that was a good enough test of his injured right knee.
Stanton started and played five innings in his customary role as the right fielder, participating in his first spring game in over a week.
“I got a chance to run around everywhere, so it was ideal to get a feel for it,” Stanton said. “I wanted to get a quicker gauge on where I was at. I felt sitting there and only [being] the DH wasn’t good enough for that. I wanted to be out there.”
Stanton, who did some live hitting on Friday on one of the back fields next to Roger Dean Stadium during a simulated outing for Wei-Yin Chen, had been kept out of the lineup since March 5 because of knee soreness. It was the same knee he had surgery on in 2012 to remove bone chips.
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Stanton hit in the cleanup spot and came to bat twice against one of the Mets’ best in Matt Harvey.
Stanton worked a full count on Harvey and drew a walk in his first time up in a seven-pitch at-bat.
He was caught stealing shortly after while attempting to steal second.
That part, according to manager Don Mattingly, was not part of the plan.
“That was a miscommunication there,” Mattingly said. “It was just a missed sign from us. It wasn’t that big a deal for him. We’ve been putting him out there in the fields a lot the past few days. It’s not like we didn’t put him out there without testing [his knee] a few different ways, but it’s not something I wanted him to do.”
In his second time at the plate, Stanton hit a check-swing roller for an out. Stanton, who belted 27 home runs and drove in 67 runs in only 74 games before breaking the hamate bone in his left hand and missing the final three months of last season, had played in two spring games before Sunday.
“I felt relatively good,” Stanton said. “I was just getting in the swing of things again. Any time you can get in there and work on that is good.”
Stanton didn’t show any obvious ill effects in the field Sunday, recording a couple of outs. He did have one dangerous moment when he took a spill in the fifth inning while chasing down a ball near the warning track.
“It was not a problem,” Stanton said. “Test it; it’s what you need. It was a game-like situation, and that’s what I need. It’s better than being passive out there.”
Stanton said he was not concerned about the time he missed affecting his ability to be ready by Opening Day. He has had six at-bats so far in the three Grapefruit League games, going 1 for 4 with two walks.
“I’d say my timing for fastballs is good,” Stanton said. “I’ve just got to stay back for the off speed and fast balls away.”
Mattingly was encouraged with the way Stanton looked Sunday but said the team will continue to monitor his health closely as spring training moves along.
“We have him in the lineup for Tuesday as of right now, but obviously lineups now aren’t etched in stone,” Mattingly said. “We’ll see how he responds [Monday] on the off day, and we’ll go from there. But if he can keep going, there’s no question he’ll be ready to go for the start of the season.
“I don’t want to downplay it because it’s Giancarlo. He’s a big impact for our team. I think if we can sustain without him for a period of time, we would compete. But, obviously, we’re a much better club with him in the lineup.”
NOT MUCH OFFENSE
Aside from Stanton’s return, there wasn’t much positive to take from the Marlins’ 11-0 loss to the Mets. The Marlins were held to three hits, and Tom Koehler made his third start of the spring. He went 3 2/3 innings with mixed results, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits, with one walk and three strikeouts.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Chris Johnson is day to day and will likely be held out of any live game action until the recent back spasms he has suffered through heal completely. Johnson said Sunday he was feeling better and is being cautious with roughly three weeks of spring training left.
▪ Mattingly said Adam Conley will have a simulated start on Monday during the team’s day off.
▪ Monday: Off.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino vs. Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.