Heading into his second year in pinstripes, the expectations for Giancarlo Stanton might have loomed as large as his massive 6-foot-6, 245-pound frame. A left biceps strain derailed the former National League MVP's season after just three games.
In his first action in more than six weeks, the Yankees outfielder opened his rehab assignment with a bang, mashing a home run for Class A Advanced Tampa on Monday to back Clarke Schmidt. New York's No. 5 prospect delivered six scoreless innings as Tampa cruised past Florida, 9-2, at George M. Steinbrenner Field to snap a seven-game skid.
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"It was good to get some defensive innings and some at-bats too," Stanton told reporters after the game. "I'll DH tomorrow and play Wednesday and go from there."
Stanton appeared in 17 Grapefruit League games this spring, notching 13 hits -- including four dingers -- with eight RBIs and eight runs scored. He finished the campaign with a .310/.420/.643 slash line and a 1.063 OPS. Through his first three games of the season, the former second-round Draft pick of the Marlins went 2-for-8 -- without an extra-base hit or RBI -- while walking seven times and scoring once.
The four-time All-Star batted second in the Tarpons lineup and started in right field against the Fire Frogs. Stanton went down swinging on a 3-2 pitch away from Florida right-hander Nolan Kingham in the first inning.
Two frames later, he stepped in against Kingham again. After jumping ahead 2-0 and then taking a pitch low in the zone, he launched the 2-1 offering beyond the wall in center field that ricocheted off the batter's eye.
"It's always a nice treat for these young players to be around Major League players and watch how they go about their business and how prepare for a game," said Tampa skipper Aaron Holbert. "And it's always nice to see the big swing out of him. You get to see what Major League power truly looks like."
Stanton faced the Braves prospect one more time in sixth and whiffed on a 1-2 off-speed pitch away. He was replaced by Tyler Hill in right to start the seventh. His only defensive action came in the fourth when he fielded a base hit and threw it into second base.
The 29-year-old clubbed 38 taters, amassed a .266/.343/.509 slash line and drove in 100 runs in his first season with the Yankees in 2018.
There is no definite timetable for Stanton's return to the big league club.
"The timing feels good," he said. "The quickness is there, it's just in-game ... just get into game rhythm and be ready to go. Just keep the process rolling this week and go from there."
The Tarpons seemed to take his example to heart. First baseman Dermis Garcia -- batting cleanup -- mashed a pair of roundtrippers, and Oswaldo Cabrera -- in the three-hole -- also went yard.
"We've been a little sluggish, we had a pretty extensive losing streak going on," Holbert said. "But I think in some way the power from [Stanton] was contagious. He got it started for us and then the others followed suit."
2019 MiLB include
On the hill, Schmidt (2-2) held down the fort for Tampa. The 2017 first-round pick worked around three hits and a walk while fanning nine over six frames. The righty finished with 85 pitches -- 59 for strikes -- and lowered his ERA to 3.48. He has 36 punchouts to 12 walks over 33 2/3 Florida State League innings this season.
"We got another solid effort out of Schmidt. He was able to use all four of his pitches, highlighted by his two-seamer, which was really effective down and in," Holbert said. "We've been waiting on this for a while now, but this is how it all starts. It was a collective effort in all facets of the ballgame that allowed us to pull this out. We pitched well, we made the plays in the field, we swung the bats well, and we did it for nine innings.
"It's great having Giancarlo here. These players look up to the Major League players and want to try to figure out how they got to where they are and see how far away it is for them in their own development."
Atlanta's No. 8 prospect William Contreras collected a pair of hits, a walk and an RBI for Florida.