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Yankees hope to start working Giancarlo Stanton into the outfield

Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees walks back to

Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees walks back to the dugout after striking out during the fourth inning against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It’s time to break the emergency glass on Giancarlo Stanton.

While the Yankees this season have opted to protect Stanton in the designated hitter role, Aaron Boone said they’ll experiment with using him in the outfield. That will afford the team some offensive flexibility in a difficult month made far more trying by the six players they’ve placed on the COVID-19 injured list.

Stanton, who has played the outfield in 1,027 MLB games, played only 13 games in the outfield in 2019, none in 2020 and none thus far in 2021.

As spring training broke this season, the Yankees had a full cadre of outfielders and didn’t feel the need to put one of their most precious hitters at risk, given his recent injury history. And though they attempted to ramp him up so he eventually could play in the field, a May stint on the injured list stymied that.

With a number of call-ups from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre up for the six players on the COVID-19 list, all of whom are expected to be out for at least 10 days, the Yankees currently have plenty of outfielders. Still, they hope to see Stanton playing defense in the coming weeks, specifically in their series against the Marlins at the end of the month in Miami, where they won’t have the luxury of the DH.

Stanton entered Saturday night's game with a .266/.359/.477 slash line, 15 home runs and 42 RBIs in 70 games. Although he struck out three times and hit into a double play in Friday night's 4-0 loss to the Red Sox, he represents one of the Yankees' bigger offensive threats, especially with Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela on the COVID list and Luke Voit out with a knee injury. So the Yankees will be cautious with Stanton and will try to build up his stamina.

"It’s just a different endurance," Boone said of playing the outfield. "It’s why in spring training we play guys three, four innings, then five, six innings. We don’t have that luxury of saying we’re going to go play him for three, four, five innings . . . We want to make sure he’s sound and make sure he’s physically, while also playing every day, physically be able to get to a workload in his defensive work that would satisfy putting him out there."

Using Stanton in the outfield will allow some of the other regulars to have a breather, especially as they’re tasked with carrying so much of the workload with Judge and Urshela on the COVID-19 list. It also could give them a way to keep Gary Sanchez and Voit in the lineup as the DH.

"I think you want as much flexibility as possible," Boone said. "I think, especially in today’s game where at times you have three- and four-man benches, which is different from 10, 15, 20 years ago. So the more the value of having versatile players that can play multi positions, there’s a lot of value in that. I think there’s absolutely value in having some flexibility so that you can on a given day, based on how a guy is feeling or having to give a guy a rest or wanting to use a DH day for somebody, sure there’s value in that."

Still, the priority is keeping Stanton healthy, and if there’s any indication that playing the outfield runs counter to that, the Yankees know which way they’ll go.

"Ultimately we want him out there taking four at-bats every day in whatever role that is," Boone said. "We think there’s tremendous value in that. So getting his workload up to a point to where we feel like he’s equipped to go out there and safely handle it, that’s the biggest thing."

New York Sports