The Yankees envision putting Giancarlo Stanton back in the pinstripes this season. The specifics are anybody’s guess.
Injuries have limited the slugging outfielder to nine games. He had a biceps strain that shelved him in the first week of the season and then shoulder and calf injuries that cost him a total of 69 games until his return in June. He hasn’t played since June 25 – another 44 games – because of a right knee sprain. Still, the belief is he will return sometime next month.
“That's our hope,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “We've done a lot of great things despite missing some very talented players and he's included in that . . . That's an impact bat. He's not just the DH, he's much more than that. He's an athletic outfielder, too, despite his size. Hopefully, we'll be in a position to utilize him.”
Stanton has hit baseballs off a tee and done some soft-tossing drills, but he still hasn’t been able to run with his full weight on the knee. Even he couldn’t put together a timeline to get back in the starting lineup, though he did say he hoped to return soon enough to get a couple weeks of at-bats before the Yankees reach the postseason.
“I’m doing everything I can to get there,” Stanton said. “That’s what this process is.”
For the 10-year veteran, who won the 2017 NL MVP award with the Marlins before he was traded to the Yankees, it has been his most frustrating season.
“It’s been brutal on my side," said Stanton, who had 38 home runs and 100 RBIs in 2018 for the Yankees. “But it’s been really good to see the team playing so well. That’s what’s kept it not so bad for me – to watch everyone bring together wins all different ways. That’s what I’ve been focusing on, not poor me or all that stuff. I’ve just been watching how good we’ve been playing and what strategy for me to come and fill in and not just be playing but to give another little boost to what we’ve already been doing so well.”
Stanton remains confident he will return to help this Yankees team. The next step will be doing baseball activities on the field. Then he would have a better idea of a realistic timeline.
“Once I start moving around, just see how it bounces back,” Stanton said. “I do want to have a few weeks of at-bats before October.”
What that might look like – the Yankees have only 39 games left – is anybody’s guess. If Stanton isn’t able to get them in games – and minor-league baseball will be over within a month – that could happen in simulated games or in late September contests.
“The deadline is when my knee is ready to play major- league games. So if something happens to that, I can always get non-big league at-bats, but close to big league pitching to catch me up,” he said.
“If he’s not what we believe is close physically to what he’s capable of being, then he wouldn’t be returning,” manager Aaron Boone said. “But we feel like he’s moving in that direction and it’s realistic . . . I want him to get outside and kind of graduate to where he’s facing live hitters and doing his defensive work on the field and those kind of things. We’re going to listen to the knee and the player and let him get there. We’re not at the point where I can give you a date.”
Here's Cashman's take: “We do expect him at some point but he's also coming back from a pretty serious injury that takes time to heal. We'll just keep waiting on it and hope that at some point he becomes a legitimate option for us.”