LAKELAND, Fla. — It was another cloudless Florida afternoon, meaning almost identical conditions to those Giancarlo Stanton faced the first time he played leftfield this year. But unlike Sunday at Steinbrenner Field, where Stanton lost two balls in the sun, Take II of the experiment went more smoothly.
Though that comes with an asterisk. Unlike Sunday, Stanton experienced little activity in left Tuesday in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
He went into the corner to retrieve JaCoby Jones’ leadoff double off Jonathan Holder in the fourth, then watched Jeimer Candelario’s drive to the track in left-center bounce over the wall for a ground-rule double, a ball Stanton never had a chance to catch.
Asked if he would have preferred more balls hit his way, Stanton said, “No, I was fine,” with a smile. “I got a little bit of action, that’s what we need. Keep working at it.”
Before the game, Aaron Boone said Stanton would continue to work in left, and that Aaron Judge, who started in right, could get some playing time there before spring training is over.
Brett Gardner is still very much the starting leftfielder, but the Yankees are tinkering with the idea of having Stanton or Judge play there in ballparks with smaller leftfields, such as Camden Yards. Judge has been doing drills in left but hasn’t played it yet in a game.
After Sunday’s game, Boone said he was encouraged by what he saw from Stanton, who had not played leftfield since he was in Double-A in 2010. The manager stressed that again Tuesday morning.
“I saw him react [to balls] the right way initially,” Boone said of Sunday. “That’s what we wanted to see. I want to see him continue to get comfortable. I thought he came out of the day in a good place, not spooked off by what happened. I think he understands it was kind of Day 1 of the process. There’s nothing that tells me he won’t be able to do this.”
Stanton, a starter in right the entirety of his seven-season big-league career, said leftfield is “a bit different” but not drastically so. “Not anything crazy to worry about,” he said. “But it is different in terms of having to get some reps out there and see the different trajectories of the ball.”
Although there are adjustments to be made in the field when he plays left, Stanton, not surprisingly, hasn’t had to make any at the plate. Stanton, who hit 59 homers with the Marlins last season in winning NL MVP, hasn’t hit any long balls this spring but hit another double Tuesday. Stanton, after going 1-for-3, is 5-for-16, with four doubles.
This double was the first that the righthanded hitter pulled. Tigers lefthander Ryan Carpenter tried to catch Stanton off guard with a 76-mph offspeed pitch and watched it get smoked on a line to the track in left-center.
“Man,” Boone said, “he hit that ball hard.”
Boone has taken notice of Stanton’s intensive preparation, as have the slugger’s new teammates. Batting practice, whether inside in the cage or outside, is a disciplined exercise. Fans who arrive early for BP sometimes come away disappointed because Stanton might spend the two or three rounds hitting balls on a line the other way.
“What I’m learning about Giancarlo, he’s got a really good idea of what makes him successful,” Boone said. “And his work is very meticulous, it’s very structured. He knows what he’s doing in his preparation.”