With Barry Bonds and Don Mattingly looking on, Giancarlo Stanton — wearing a sleeveless T-shirt that was soaked with sweat — spent 45 minutes in the outdoor batting cage on Friday at Marlins Park trying to rediscover his long-lost swing.
By the time Stanton’s private tutoring session was complete, the field was littered with dozens of baseballs, with dozens more sprinkled in the outfield seats.
“Getting big ‘G’s’ feel back, that’s all it is,” Mattingly said afterward.
Whether the extra work pays off remains to be seen.
Stanton went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts in Friday night’s 4-1 loss to the Nationals to continue one of the worst slumps of his career, a 4-for-45 drought that reached a nadir in Philadelphia earlier in the week when he went 0 for 10, striking out nine times.
The frustrated slugger acknowledged that he was “playing like [garbage]” and that his struggles were unacceptable.
His .221 average entering Friday was the lowest among Marlins starters, lower than even pitcher Jose Fernandez’s .286 average.
“Can’t do it no more,” he said then.
“We’re not going to be successful when you’re getting zero production out of your cleanup guy.”
Determined to snap out of his funk, Stanton corralled Bonds and Mattingly and stepped into the cage alone before the rest of the Marlins came out for batting practice.
With assistant hitting coach Frank Menechino throwing him pitches, Stanton would take 15 or 20 swings, stop to listen to hitting advice from coaches, and in a few cases step aside to allow Bonds to take a few cuts, showing him how it’s done.
“We’re not trying to change him,” Mattingly said. “Just trying to get his feel back, that’s all.”
Mattingly said too much advice can be counter-productive
“When you’ve got one of these [prolonged slumps] you’ve got the doorman telling you how to hit, you’ve got your mom, your brother, your cousin, your high school coach, sportswriters telling you what you should be doing,” Mattingly said.
Bonds said no hitter, no matter how great, is immune from droughts at the plate, and Stanton is no exception.
“I’ve been there,” said Bonds, who added that he often sought out advice from his father, Bobby, and Giants legend Willie Mays when he needed help.
“I’m pretty sure he’s felt a little bit of frustration that he hasn’t done what he wants to do for his teammates. Today, he wanted to get out here and do his thing, just get his mind cleared.”
Mattingly said he’s not the least bit concerned that Stanton won’t break out of it soon.
“You always have them, everybody has them, and you have them every year,” Mattingly said of hitting slumps. “At some point you just say, ‘I’m not going to worry about what happened in the past. I’m going to help my team win a game tonight and not worry about it.’ ”
JACKSON BACK IN BULLPEN
The Marlins received much-needed relief help on Friday when Edwin Jackson was activated from the disabled list.
Mattingly said he intends to use Jackson in long relief.
“I think really what it is is a protection role,” Mattingly said. “It protects us from having to use our back-end guys on days that we don’t want to use them.”
Jackson appeared in four games for the Marlins before going on the DL with a right triceps strain.
“I’m feeling healthy,” he said.
“I’m just going to let everything be organic, if that makes sense. Not really think about mechanics and believe in what I’ve been doing and just relaxing.”
To make room for Jackson, the Marlins optioned left-hander Jarlin Garcia to Double A Jacksonville.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Fernandez (5-2, 3.21 ERA) vs. Washington Nationals RHP Joe Ross (3-3, 2.63), 7:15 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Sunday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (3-2, 3.40) vs. Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (4-3, 4.01), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.