Despite leading the Yankees in home runs and RBIs last season, Giancarlo Stanton heard his share of boos during his first year in pinstripes.
Stanton returned to the lineup Tuesday night after a 10-week absence — and so did a smattering of Bronx cheers — as he struck out twice and finished going 0-for-4 in the Yankees’ 6-3 win over the Rays at the Stadium.
One day after newly acquired slugger Edwin Encarnacion made his Yankees debut, Stanton was back in the middle of the batting order for the first time since March 31, batting fifth and playing rightfield.
“It’s been a long time,” Stanton, whocontributed a leaping catch while reaching into the stands in foul territory in the second inning, said before the game. “It feels longer than it has been for me. I’m excited to be here. The boys have been fun to watch while I’ve been gone, so it’s going to be good to file in and battle with them.”
The Yanks, who also are slated to get back Aaron Judge (oblique) from the injured list as early as this weekend, entered play Tuesday with the fourth-most home runs and the fifth-most runs scored in the American League.
Stanton paced the team with 38 homers and 100 RBI in 2018, his first in the Bronx after crushing 59 homers and winning NL MVP honors the previous season in Miami. But he’s still looking to go deep for the first time this season.
The $325 million slugger appeared in the Yankees’ first three games, suffering what he revealed for the first time Tuesday was a torn left biceps on March 31 against Baltimore. During his rehabilitation, Stanton also suffered a shoulder injury in April and then a strained calf — after he was hit by a pitch on his knee — during a minor-league rehab assignment in May.
“I tore my biceps muscle. The biceps connects to your shoulder in two places, and when I was getting back swinging, and getting moving around again, my shoulder started acting up, so I had to shut it down, get a cortisone shot,” Stanton said. “Then I got hit in the knee and that set me back. I probably should have took some more time than I did and that set me back because my knee was unstable, and my calf strained.
“So I was so close. I built up, had to stop. Built up, had to stop — three times — so it was very frustrating and not ideal for sure. I’m just glad that’s over with and I can look forward because that wasn’t a fun time.”
With Encarnacion expected to garner much of the playing time at designated hitter, the 29-year-old Stanton mostly will man the corner outfield spots for the rest of the season. He likely will slide over to leftfield once Judge returns.
“That’s fine. However I’m needed,” said Stanton, who belted five homers and drove in eight runs in five rehab games with Single-A Tampa and Triple-A Scranton. “I’m sure I’m going to bounce around all three positions, like last year, and just help us out in any way.”
As for the Yankees’ retooled lineup, including the addition of Encarnacion and the pending return of Judge, Stanton added: “We were already dangerous and now it’s another icing to the cake. We’ve got to build this together. Once we’re all on full force, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m just glad to be back and Aaron’s not far behind me . . . I’m still here to perform and help give an extra boost, as well. But it also helps seeing them play so well.”