TAMPA, Fla. -- About two hours prior to Giancarlo Stanton's first game against the Marlins, the slugger descended the three steps of the visiting dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field, warmly embracing his former manager while creating a jarring visual.There was Stanton, Miami's all-time leader in homers, RBIs and total
TAMPA, Fla. -- About two hours prior to Giancarlo Stanton's first game against the Marlins, the slugger descended the three steps of the visiting dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field, warmly embracing his former manager while creating a jarring visual.
There was Stanton, Miami's all-time leader in homers, RBIs and total bases, grinning broadly while showing off his Yankees-issued midnight blue batting practice top. On the receiving end of that hug was Don Mattingly, a New York icon who still appears somewhat out of place wearing anything but pinstripes.
Following that interaction, Mattingly opined that Stanton is "in a good spot" with his new club, and should be ready for the challenges that await.
"He'll be fine," Mattingly said prior to the Yankees' 8-5 Grapefruit League victory. "If you're good on the field, then you're good everywhere. He's not a guy that's out in Page Six. He's a young guy, he has fun, but he's pretty private. I think that's good for him in New York. He's played enough. He's got confidence in his ability. I think once you have confidence in the field, you just kind of deal with everything else."
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Ten days away from his first Opening Day with the Yankees, Stanton seems to have turned the page on eight seasons in Miami, which ended in acrimony prior to a December trade that sent All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro and prospects Jose Devers and Jose Guzman to the Marlins. Stanton spent time on Sunday chatting with Miami's coaches and personnel.
"It was good to see those guys," Stanton said. "I caught up with them for a little bit, checked in how things are doing. It was just good to see them."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he didn't even realize Stanton was playing his former team until he spotted his player chatting jovially with third-base coach Fredi Gonzalez during an inning.
"I was like, 'Oh yeah, he's playing his [old] team today,'" Boone said. "I think he really likes it here. It's a credit to those guys in that room. I think they made him feel at home. The sense I've gotten is that he's come in and been one of the guys, not necessarily put on a pedestal or anything like that. I think he likes that."
Perhaps that is why Stanton has readily attacked the challenge of a new position, having played more left field than right this spring. He was busy on Sunday, recording a pair of putouts while unable to snare Scott Van Slyke's sinking fourth-inning liner, which fell for a double.
"I'm moving side to side better, got a lot of reads," Stanton said. "I got a lot today. If you prepare for a lot, then you're ready for a little."
Mattingly said that though Stanton was easy for him to manage, calling him a "no-maintenance guy" during their time together, adjusting to life without the National League MVP Award winner has been a necessary transition.
"It was one of those things that it felt like our organization had to do," Mattingly said. "You don't ever want to lose guys like that, but you know in our situation with a smaller-market club, it was going to be tough having one guy being 30 percent of your payroll. It straps you as far as being able to put a team on the field that's going to be competitive."
Stanton exited for a pinch-runner after mashing a Justin Nicolino offering for a seventh-inning RBI single, his eighth hit in 35 spring at-bats (.229). He also walked twice on Sunday.
On a day when Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez launched long homers, Stanton could appreciate the backup he frequently lacked in his previous life, but he looks forward to playing a starring role as well.
"I've still got to perform the way I can, too," Stanton said. "I'll get a lot of help on the days that I don't produce, but I'm part of that lineup. We're all whole."
Stanton can renew acquaintances again soon, as the Marlins and Yankees play four times during Interleague Play. Derek Jeter's team comes to Yankee Stadium, April 16-17, and the Yankees will travel to Miami, Aug. 21-22.
"I think during the regular season it'll be a little weird, but it wasn't too bad [Sunday]," Stanton said.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.