TAMPA, Fla. -- Facing Giancarlo Stanton always carries an element of danger for any big league pitcher. That has been especially true this spring as the Yankees slugger has seemed locked in from his very first batting practice sessions.
Stanton has spent the early weeks of camp pounding on the Bombers' pitching staff, and he continued to barrel the ball in his first game action on Wednesday. Stanton's first at-bat in New York's 4-2 Grapefruit League walk-off win produced a 112.4 mph line drive that struck Nationals pitcher Cory Abbott on the right calf. Abbott recovered to help record the putout at first base.
"In spring, I always seem to hit a pitcher," Stanton said. "Good thing it was low. I know it's not going to feel good later, but good thing he stayed in and got his work in. Hopefully, he's all right."
A 27-year-old who made 16 appearances (nine starts) for Washington last year, Abbott had his hands full with a representative Yankees lineup that featured DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo in the top three spots. He'd almost forgotten about Stanton, who led off the bottom of the second inning.
"I honestly was thinking right before, I was like, 'I don't know where to throw this ball. I don't know what the scouting report is,'” Abbott said. “And I was like, ‘You know what, I've seen him on TV a couple of times. Low and away. He'll hit it hard, but it won't be a home run.’ He didn't hit a home run, but 113 [mph] into my leg.”
While Abbott was icing his calf in the clubhouse, Stanton also hit the ball well in his second at-bat, a flyout to the warning track against Jordan Weems in the fourth inning.
“For being this early, he’s pretty locked in,” manager Aaron Boone said. “His at-bats in the live sessions have looked really good. … The last couple of years, he’s come in like that as well. I feel like he has a much more polished understanding of who he is as a hitter. He looks really good so far.”
Despite their second-half doldrums (which coincided with Stanton’s lengthy absence due to an Achilles injury), the Yankees completed the 2022 regular season pacing the American League in runs (807), homers (254) and RBIs (764). Stanton sees the ’23 lineup as even more formidable.
“When we’re all out there, it’s a force to be reckoned with,” Stanton said. “We just work off these days. As many days as we can get close to our full lineup out there, it’s a fun look and preview for this year.”
Left feels right
Judge will begin taking fly balls in left field next week, with the intent of playing there occasionally during the regular season, Boone said on Wednesday.
Judge suggested the defensive alignment this spring as an avenue to find additional starts in right field for Stanton. Boone would prefer Stanton not to play the spacious left field at Yankee Stadium, though he might see some innings there in smaller parks like Boston or Houston.
Judge has never played left field in a Major League game. He did see time there in 2016 with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and as a freshman at Fresno State University before moving to center field.
“Anything to help us win and put the best situation out there for us to win, he’s open to it,” Stanton said.
Back in action
LeMahieu went 1-for-2 in his spring debut on Wednesday, marking the infielder’s first game action since Oct. 5 at Texas. LeMahieu could not play during the postseason due to a lingering right foot injury, which he said is now completely behind him.
“It’s awesome to be back out there,” LeMahieu said. “I feel great. It’s just exciting to be out there with the guys again.”
Drive for five
Domingo Germán opened his spring bid for the No. 5 starter’s job with 2 1/3 solid innings, permitting a run and a hit. Competing against Clarke Schmidt to replace the injured Frankie Montas, Germán walked none and struck out three in a 35-pitch effort.
“You understand there’s a competition, but at the same time, you don’t want to put too much stress into that,” Germán said through a translator. “To me, it’s to focus on the work and on being healthy. At the end of camp, if you’re healthy and you do your job, and you’re executing pitches -- anything is possible.”