Marlins' Stanton faces first live pitches since being hit
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Giancarlo Stanton saw his first live pitches since his beaning back in September. The Miami Marlins will have to wait at least one more day to watch Stanton take his first swing.
While other members of his hitting group swung freely Thursday during the Miami's first live batting practice sessions of the spring, Stanton - wearing a traditional-style batting helmet - tracked all 10 pitches he saw, five from Henderson Alvarez and five from Brad Hand, into the catcher's mitt.
He never considered swinging, not even at strikes.
Stanton said he didn't experience any anxiety stepping into the box for the first time since a Mike Fiers fastball broke his orbital bone and damaged five teeth on Sept. 12, prematurely ending the young slugger's season.
''It was just like any other spring training,'' Stanton said. ''I wanted to minimize any expectations on either side. I didn't think that I would have any thoughts about (the injury) and I didn't.''
Stanton expected a newly designed helmet, which features a half-facemask similar to what a football quarterback might wear protecting the left side of this face, to arrive later Thursday.
''It's just what I envisioned when thinking about it,'' said Stanton, who signed a 13-year, $325 million contract during the offseason.
Stanton worked closely with the design team from Schutt Sports to bring his helmet vision to reality. The face guard is made from the same titanium Schutt uses when making the masks for its football helmets.
While many traditional face guards are made from the same material as the batting helmet and extend as one solid piece across the cheek, Stanton's design features three uncovered thin titanium bars like the ones that would be found in a normal football facemask.
Stanton believes the design provides better visibility.
''I wasn't fond of that (old design) across my face the whole time,'' he said.
The new mask also features an element of style. The middle of the three bars only wraps about halfway around his cheek. A reinforcing arc near the end of the mask out close to his mouth helps form the letter ''G.''
''We tested it,'' Stanton said. ''It was just as strong as three solid bars, so I figured why not?''
In tests, the face guard withstood fastballs clocked between 85-100 mph, denting but not breaking. Stanton noted that traditional guards dent when stuck by balls traveling at that speed, too.
He expects to wear his new helmet the next time he faces live pitching.
The 25-year-old said he wouldn't have taken any cuts against Alvarez or Hand on Thursday even if his new helmet had arrived earlier.
Stanton did take his turn in the cage during coach-pitch batting practice, spraying the ball around the field but never letting loose with the ferocity that produced a National League-high 37 home runs last season. That didn't seem to bother the throng of fans who descended on the young superstar like moths to a light as he walked from field to field, or the MLB production crew that followed him around the complex all day for an upcoming feature.
Stanton's quiet approach in the batter's box didn't surprise manager Mike Redmond, who noted it isn't unusual for hitters to use that first live session to simply work on their eye at the plate.
''He's feeling good,'' Redmond said. ''He's healthy. It was great seeing him get in there. I know the anticipation for everyone, it's been a big buildup, so it was good to see him get in there. Now hopefully we can move on.''