It was his face in 2014. It was his hand in 2015.
Giancarlo Stanton failed to finish the season each of the previous two years because of injuries.
But he was determined not to have it happen to him for a third consecutive year when he went down Aug. 13 with what the Marlins announced was a Grade 3 groin strain. The typical recovery time: six to eight weeks.
His season was over. Or so everyone thought.
“In my mind, he wasn’t coming back this year,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
But Stanton not only made it back in 24 days, he stroked a pinch-hit single Tuesday night in his first at-bat.
Stanton attributed his quick return to two factors: stubborness and the frustration of watching the Marlins go into a tailspin during his absence.
“Just worked at it all day,” Stanton said of his recovery routine. “Stretched. Iced. Rehab. Morning. Night. Double time. And watching this [the Marlins’ season going down the tubes] was another thing that made me have to come back a little sooner.”
There was no chance of a miraculous comeback for Stanton in 2014 when his face was shattered by a pitch in mid-September. But when he broke his hamate bone in his left hand in late June of 2015, expectations were that he would back in three to four weeks. Instead, he never got back on the field. Stanton couldn’t bear the thought of that happening again this time.
“The hamate was an easy three to four weeks after surgery, and it took me six months,” Stanton said. “So [this time] I just played the reverse psychology.”
It’s uncertain if and when Stanton will be able to return to his position in right field and play a full game. For now, he’s being limited to pinch-hitting duties with instructions to go easy on the basepaths.
“Being agile out there will be the test,” Stanton said. “It has its tight days. I just have to get the inflammation and the flexibility back, and the trigger — the fire — of my motions.”
Said Mattingly: “I have been surprised, honestly, how fast he was able to get back.”
ozuna returns, plays right field
With Marcell Ozuna returning to the lineup on Wednesday night for the first time in a week, Mattingly used a new outfield alignment.
Instead of returning Ozuna to center field, where he had played all season, he kept Christian Yelich there. Ozuna started in right with Ichiro Suzuki in left.
The reason: “The way [Yelich’s] looked in center, we just want to keep looking at it,” Mattingly said. “I think, as much as anything, we’ve seen closing speed. This is an awfully big outfield. We just want to see if there’s a difference. We just want to kind of continue to look at it for right now, but also looking forward [beyond this season].”
▪ Thursday: Off day.
▪ Friday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (13-8, 3.03 ERA) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (11-2, 1.79), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.