MIAMI — It was all familiar for Giancarlo Stanton when he arrived at Marlins Park on Tuesday, signed a couple autographs, posed for a photo and then walked into the players’ entrance at the ballpark that had been his home for six years.
But then, instead of taking the familiar left turn and heading to the plush, roomy home clubhouse, he turned right for the visitors’ clubhouse.
“It feels weird for sure,” said Stanton, dressed in his traveling gray pants and navy workout top as he spoke to a couple dozen reporters in the dugout before the Yankees game here on Tuesday night.
Stanton, who steered a trade to the Yankees last December, arrived here with mixed emotions: happy to be gone from the penurious Marlins, off on another rebuild, but quite comforted to be returning to a city where he not only grew into stardom but into a man, a place where he still owns a home and where he won the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player Award.
As central as he was to the Marlins, Stanton, the captivating slugger they began to build around after lavishing upon him a 13-year, $275 million contract, is now an anchor for the Yankees as they try to nail down a playoff berth that had seemed a formality at the All-Star break.
The Yankees limped here without their latest injury casualty — shortstop Didi Gregorius, who on Tuesday was placed on the 10-day disabled list after he bruised his left heel on Sunday. Gregorius has company on the disabled list from right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez — leaving the Yankees without what would optimally be their Nos. 2, 4 and 5 batters.
All three could return in early September, when the Yankees embark on a cross-country swing that will include Oakland and Seattle, whom they may be battling for a wild-card spot, but their timetables are not certain — nor are their on-field forms.
Sanchez, who has twice been on the disabled list with a groin injury, will begin playing in the Gulf Coast League on Thursday and could advance soon after that to a week of rehab games in Class AAA. Gregorius’s condition will become clearer after he is examined by a doctor on Wednesday night. Judge’s return remains murky as the pain in his fractured right wrist has not subsided enough for him to swing a bat. What was originally diagnosed as a two-week injury has now been amended to four to six weeks.
“We’ve certainly been tested with some of the people we’ve lost for periods of time,” said Manager Aaron Boone, whose team is 32-25 since Sanchez first injured his groin in a game at Tampa Bay on June 24, beginning a stretch in which they have fallen nine games behind Boston.
Boone added: “This continues to be a tough stretch for us and having faced a little bit of adversity along the way, but I also feel like we’ve handled it well and the guys that we’ve asked to step up have, and it’s allowed us to continue to win while we’re kind of going through a tough stretch.”
Gregorius’s absence places a greater burden on the rookie Gleyber Torres, who has struggled since missing three weeks in July with a right hip strain. Torres, who will slide over from second base, was 7 for 36 on the Yankees’ recent homestand.
“When you’re out, you lose a little bit of timing,” Torres said. “That’s the most difficult thing when we come back.”
It also increases the need for Stanton to continue his production. Since the day Sanchez was initially hurt, Stanton has been batting .337 with 14 home runs, 38 runs batted in and a 1.015 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. His bat, which might have seemed superfluous to a power-packed lineup at the start of the season, has been so vital to the Yankees this month that he did not play in the field between Aug. 7 and Tuesday night to protect his tender hamstring.
When Stanton saw the Marlins in mid-April, he was mired in a tumultuous start, twice racking up five strikeout games at Yankee Stadium — something he had never done. Before that series, Stanton had dinner with three former teammates with the Marlins — infielder Miguel Rojas and relievers Kyle Barraclough and A.J. Ramos, who is now with the Mets and shares an apartment with Stanton.
“He was perfectly fine,” Rojas said. “He knew that he was going to be good. That’s the beauty of this game — there’s 162 games. Everybody goes through rough patches that maybe was a little bit of a struggle, but you can see the numbers are there.”
Stanton acknowledged that his sluggish start with the Yankees did not feel the same as the slow ones he had with the Marlins — including last season.
“It’s much more magnified given everything that happened in my season last year,” Stanton said. “It wasn’t ideal, but you’ve got to push through it and get out of it.”
If there were any hard feelings about Stanton’s disparaging remarks toward the Marlins on his way out of town, they were forgotten by the crowd here — a mixture of Yankee fans and appreciative Miamians.
When Stanton came to bat in the first inning, he was greeted with a standing ovation. After digging into the batter’s box and having a word with catcher J.T. Realmuto, Stanton stepped out and tapped his chest and then saluted the crowd.
There was, however, one element of his return that Stanton was not happy to embrace — the giant home run sculpture in center field, which emits flashing lights, twirling fish and plumes of water when a Marlin homers. He derided it as circuslike when he left.
“I still don’t like it,” Stanton said with a smile, who arrived with 299 career home runs. “But it won’t be going off if I hit one here, so that’s all right.”