TAMPA, Fla. — Giancarlo Stanton’s first experience in leftfield left the impression that it probably should be his last. But not to Yankees manager Aaron Boone — and it’s his opinion, and those of his coaching staff, that matter most.
“Today I saw what I wanted to see,” Boone said. “I saw nothing today that didn’t keep me from still being optimistic.”
Stanton, starting in leftfield for the first time in his eight-year big-league career, lost the first two balls hit to him in the sun, and they landed for doubles. It was a forgettable day for the slugger in a 9-1 loss to the Rays on a cloudless but gusty Sunday afternoon at Steinbrenner Field.
To his credit, Stanton offered no excuses, and, to the contrary of how it looked, said he felt comfortable enough in the unfamiliar position.
“They were in the sun, but it doesn’t matter. Still a part of the game,” said Stanton, who last started in left with Double-A Jacksonville in 2010. “Everyone out there has got the same.”
Boone said Stanton again will start in left in the Yankees’ next game Tuesday in Lakeland against the Tigers.
“The first-step reads, the moving toward the ball, I was all pleased with, which I think is a good start in the process,” Boone said. “Picked about as tough a day to play outfield as you can have in Florida. As you could see, there were a lot of balls falling out there. There were infielders struggling to catch pop-ups.”
One opposing team’s scout wasn’t as generous.
“Thought his initial reads and routes were fair at best, and there was the sun factor,” the scout said. “But I’d say he’s going to be below average there from what I saw today. I’d have to let him prove to me that it’ll be better. Almost everyone else caught the ball today.”
Boone said it is “possible” that Aaron Judge, who has been getting work in left along with the rest of the outfielders, will get time there in exhibition games.
With one on and none out in the second inning, lefthanded-hitting Jake Bauers sent a drive off Chad Green toward the gap in left-center. Stanton took the correct route to the ball and had his glove in position to make the catch as he reached the track . . . until he didn’t. As Stanton shielded himself, the ball bounced off his glove and went for a double.
In the fourth, Kevin Kiermaier, another lefthanded batter, sliced a drive to leftfield. Stanton took a poorer route to this ball, which landed near him and hopped over the fence for a double.
“Got some bad balls [in the sun] that didn’t help the team at all, but I have to find a way to get by,” he said. “I felt all right. The routes and everything were good, the rest, not as.”
It was a windy day, and Stanton, as Boone said, wasn’t the only fielder from either side to have trouble. But as the scout said, the vast majority of the balls were caught.
“The sun was my main factor,” Stanton said. “The wind, it was howling, but I wouldn’t [blame] that.”
Asked how he can practice seeing balls in the sun, Stanton smiled. “Get sun vision,” he said. “See right through the sun.”
Stanton went 0-for-3 and is off to a 4-for-13 start. He said his first couple of games at the plate in spring training were more uncomfortable than standing in leftfield.
“I felt worse in the box my first ABs than I did my first time in left,” he said. “So it’s a process. It’s fine.”