Stanton ready to lead Marlins' turnaround
Slugging outfielder excited about new additions, hopes to remain injury-free
JUPITER, Fla. -- The time for talk is over. Giancarlo Stanton sees the start of Spring Training as a time for action.
To the 24-year-old slugger, the road to a dramatic team turnaround starts now.
Full-squad workouts got underway on Thursday for the Marlins, and Stanton echoed what the organization is already thinking.
"I'm competitive," Stanton said. "I don't take losing well. I'm not a loser. That's not what I'm accustomed to. That's not what I like to do."
Since Stanton was promoted as a highly touted prospect in 2010, the Marlins have endured more than their share of setbacks. Miami has finished last in the National League East in each of the past three seasons. The best record Stanton was part of came in his rookie year, when the Marlins finished third with an 80-82 mark.
A year ago, the club went through a transitional period, relying heavily on either rookies or inexperienced players. The end result was a 62-100 season, despite the emergence of Jose Fernandez as the NL Rookie of the Year Award winner and a rising ace.
To Stanton, 2013 was more of the same. Personally, the right fielder had an injury-plagued year, appearing in 116 games. The sporadic stretches in the lineup prevented him from gaining any continuity, and it was reflected in his statistics.
Stanton batted .249 with 24 home runs and 62 RBIs. His on-base percentage was .365, but he struck out 140 times in 425 at-bats.
"Last year was a tough year," manager Mike Redmond said. "Whether he tried to do too much, or if he felt like he had to do everything, that's not fair to him."
Upgrading the offense and giving Stanton more protection were the Marlins' No. 1 offseason objectives. The front office feels it brought in talented pieces in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal, Casey McGehee and Jeff Baker.
"It showed the organization was going to go out and grab some pieces around Stanton to help him out and take the pressure off him," Redmond said. "He's excited about that."
The past few seasons, the Marlins certainly have trended in the wrong direction. They were 72-90 in 2011 and 69-93 in '12, before losing 100 games last year.
Stanton, the biggest threat in the lineup, recognizes he has to do his part, but it will take a group effort to turn the franchise's fortunes around.
"This, obviously, hasn't been ideal so far," the slugger said. "I don't want a career like that. We've got to push it forward and start turning it around."
The Marlins envision Stanton as a building block, and he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season. This was his first time eligible for arbitration, and Stanton's salary increased to $6.5 million.
The Marlins are open to signing Stanton long term, but the power-hitting right fielder is taking a wait-and-see approach.
Stanton recently told MLB.com that he wants to see some franchise security before agreeing to a deal that would include some free-agent seasons. Redmond is the fifth manager Stanton has had in the big leagues, and the roster was broken up after the disappointing 2012 season.
"You can't just get a bunch of big names who are not going to blend together on the field," Stanton said. "Baseball is one sport where you can't just bring a bunch of guys in and expect to click right away. It starts with the chemistry in here, and it translates out on the field."
Redmond understands Stanton's frustrations, but he notes the slugger isn't alone when it comes to being on losing clubs.
"None of us like to lose," the second-year manager said. "I played on a lot of losing teams, too, before we won. I think that makes the winning even that much sweeter. You endure some tough years, but you learn also a lot about yourself."
Redmond does agree that now is a time for action.
"I didn't come here to lose 100 games," Redmond said. "I want to win. I want to be a part of a winning team. We got together throughout the offseason to figure out ways to improve the offense. We think we have done that. We brought in guys we feel can help us out a lot. At the same time, too, we can talk about it until we are blue in the face. We've got to go out there and do it."
Spring Training brings new hope, as well as new teammates.
Stanton has arrived in camp happy, relaxed and eager to do his part. The past few days, he was at the complex getting his work in. Stanton even stepped into the box (without swinging) to track pitches while pitchers were throwing their bullpen sessions.
"I'm excited and eager to get out there," Stanton said. "But at the same time, it's more of a calm preparation. I can't wait to get things started. I need this time and the whole spring to get the season going."
From a personal standpoint, health will be crucial for Stanton.
At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, Stanton is one of the more imposing players in the league. He's already belted 117 career home runs in 489 games.
What Stanton hasn't done the past two years is stay in the lineup. In 2011, he played in 150 games and belted 34 home runs. In '12, right knee surgery limited Stanton to 123 games. Still, he slugged 37 homers.
"This game is every day," Stanton said. "You need to find that training that fits the everyday program. You can't take days off here. You can't let one muscle relax on an everyday basis."