2018-02-24 14:54:03
Giancarlo Stanton Fuels, and Feels, Excitement in His First Yankees Game

14:54, February 24 133 0

TAMPA, Fla. — The old standbys were in place for the Yankees’ exhibition opener at Steinbrenner Field: a high school marching band, bunting hanging from the front of the suites and a near-capacity crowd.

But there was something else hanging in the air on this sun-soaked Friday afternoon: expectations.

“The expectation level is through the roof,” said Mario Ranieri Jr., a lifelong Yankees fan who attended the game with his father, Mario Sr., and his son, Anthony. “Everybody’s got us winning the World Series and the Super Bowl.”

Perhaps that’s possible — the Yankees after all recently acquired the rights to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — but Friday was more about the anticipation after last season’s rousing playoff run, which ended one game short of the World Series, and the off-season acquisition of the slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

With Aaron Judge coming off shoulder surgery and not expected to make his spring debut until the middle of next week — and with Gary Sanchez also out of the lineup until Monday night — the spotlight was ceded to Stanton, the reigning National League most valuable player, who hit 59 home runs last season.

Stanton, who played right field for four innings, drew a walk and grounded into a double play before departing from the Yankees’ 3-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

Stanton received a long, loud welcome from fans when the lineups were introduced, and he couldn’t help noticing. Asked how the day was different from his exhibition openers with the Miami Marlins, who drafted him 10 years ago, Stanton paused for a moment.

“This is better,” he said with a smile.

“More excitement,” he continued. “I’d say, ‘Can’t wait, happy for spring.’ It’s a spring game, but ‘can’t wait to see what we can do.’ That’s what would be the difference.”

Stanton said that when the Yankees break camp in five weeks, he would like to be “feeling how I would when I’m grooving in a season. That’s a little bit of everything — timing, sight. I think the thing that takes the longest is the mental aspect of the pitches, the sequencing, how they’re going to pitch with runners on, without — getting the rust off of that.”

Those are the words of an established star. For many others, Friday marked the start of a pursuit of the few roster spots that are up for grabs: second and third base, and perhaps a spot in the bullpen if the Yankees carry eight relievers.

Second baseman Gleyber Torres, the slight front-runner among six candidates for the starting job, dove for Leonys Martin’s leadoff grounder up the middle. The ball glanced off his glove, and Torres rose gingerly, not over concern about his left arm — which needed elbow surgery last August — but because he had the wind knocked out of him.

“You do hold your breath a little more for your guys now in this role,” said Aaron Boone, who left the ESPN broadcast booth to manage the Yankees this season. But Boone was pleased that Torres, who later forgot how many outs there were, could begin to settle in.

Torres, who wore a long-sleeved Michael Jordan “I’m back” T-shirt — a comeback announcement that came nine months before Torres was born — said he was not thinking about the competition.

“I just try to stay focused, do my job every day,” he said.

One of Torres’s competitors, Tyler Wade, was able to distinguish himself. Though he could not corral a bad-hop grounder while playing shortstop and was charged with an error, Wade stretched a base hit to center field into a double, advanced to third on a balk that he may have forced and came home on Jake Cave’s groundout to tie the score at 1-1 in the sixth. Jorge Saez later added a two-out, two-run single in the inning.

Wade, who hit .155 in sporadic duty with the Yankees, said earlier in the day that he hoped to use this spring to show the type of dynamic player he had been at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“I’m excited to show my game,” Wade said.

It was the first meeting between the Tigers and the Yankees since last August, when there were three bench-clearing brawls, including one that began with a confrontation between the Tigers star Miguel Cabrera and Yankees catcher Austin Romine. When Cabrera came to bat in the first inning Friday, he appeared to have a quick word with Romine.

“I think on some level, baseball players never forget things,” Boone said. “One of our messages will always be we’re out there to win games and compete, and turn the page on those kinds of things the best we can.”

INSIDE PITCH

Both teams — like others in baseball — wore the caps of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the site of last week’s shooting in Parkland, Fla. … Along with adding protective netting at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees have added 10-foot netting behind the dugouts at Steinbrenner Field. It may not be high enough. Yankees outfielder Estevan Florial lost his grip on a bat, which went flying over the net on the first-base dugout before a fan reached up and grabbed it. “A fan made a heck of a catch over there,” Boone said.