Giancarlo Stanton found himself Monday afternoon doing what has become a too-frequent occurrence the last 1 ½ seasons of his still young Yankees career:
Discussing an injury.
The latest, a Grade 1 left hamstring strain, landed Stanton on the injured list Aug. 9, and the timeline for his return remains uncertain (though the general timeline at the low end for such injuries is 3-4 weeks).
And the 30-year-old outfielder, who was off to a good start at the plate, is more than aware of how he’s viewed by much of the fan base.
“I would be disappointed. I am disappointed in myself. I would be disappointed if I was rooting for me,” Stanton said Monday afternoon, a couple of hours before the 15-6 Yankees went for a four-game sweep of the 6-16 Red Sox.
His message to those fans?
“Just hold on tight,” said Stanton, who was hitting .293 with three homers and a 1.038 OPS in his first 14 games before the injury, one that occurred during the second game of a doubleheader against the Rays Aug. 8 in St. Petersburg, Fla. “I'm working. There's nothing for me to do but work to get back and keep a positive mindset.”
That, no doubt, is easier some days than others.
No one — Stanton least of all — needs reminding of his recent injury history.
“It’s been tough, to be honest. This is my life,” said Stanton, who hopes to resume baseball activities in the coming days. “I put a lot into this. It's unbelievable.”
Injury-prone as he has been of late, however, the comparisons made by some fans and media to another high-priced, oft-injured outfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, aren’t quite fair.
From 2011-18 — the first seven of those seasons spent in Miami with the Marlins — Stanton averaged 130 games per season. In 2018, his first year with the Yankees after an offseason trade to the Bronx, he played in 158 games, hitting 38 homers and driving in 100 runs. In 2017, his last year with the Marlins, Stanton won NL MVP honors after hitting 59 homers and driving in 132 runs in 159 games.
But 2019 was nothing short of a physical nightmare for Stanton, who appeared in 18 games.
A left biceps strain put him on the IL April 1, then left calf tightness cropped up during a rehab assignment May 20. After returning to the Yankees on June 18, Stanton went back on the IL June 26 with a right knee sprain. He returned in September and played in the postseason before missing the final four games of the six-game ALCS loss to the Astros because of a low Grade 2 quadriceps strain.
Stanton, thinking the bodybuilder-type body he’s sculpted in recent years might have contributed to the injuries, lost about 20 pounds in the offseason, arriving for Spring Training I in February at about 225 pounds, a similar weight, he said, to earlier in his career.
“I had a lot of time to think over last year,” Stanton said a few games into this 60-game regular season. “I just wanted to cover all my bases. I tried to figure out what was the best way for me to stay on the field. What's the best way for me to progress? I thought I'd give this a try and be closer to the weight of my younger years.”
Regardless, on Feb. 25, less than two weeks into camp, Stanton suffered a Grade 1 right calf strain that would have kept him from playing in the originally scheduled March 26 season-opener in Baltimore.
“You just have to look at it for what it is and the spot that I’m in,” said Stanton, who all but shrugged during Monday’s Zoom interview. “It’s a tough spot, but people have been in worse, and there can always be light at the end of the tunnel. So you’ve got to keep positive, you’ve got to keep moving forward. And the [positive] mindset helps you to come back as well. I think that's underestimated.”