March 25, 2011
Spring training is designed to give pitchers enough time to prepare for the 162-game grind. If it were up to most major league hitters, it would last no longer than a week. If it were up to Florida Marlins sophomore slugger Mike Stanton(notes), it would probably last one game. And even that might be excessive.
The future All-Star made his long-awaited Grapefruit League debut on Thursday against Clay Buchholz(notes) and the Boston Red Sox — his arrival delayed due to a strained right quadriceps suffered on Feb. 27 against the University of Miami — and the results ranged from encouraging to extraordinary.
Encouraging that he played his six-plus innings without suffering any setbacks.
Extraordinary that he finished the afternoon going 3 for 4 with two home runs — both off Buchholz — and seven RBIs. The first home run described by the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer as a tape-measure line-drive shot that traveled an estimated 500 feet.
As I've said before, I'm not one to put a lot of stock in spring training results one way or the other, but it's not like Stanton was working out the kinks against spring training roster filler or a group of construction workers. Clay Buchholz is an established pitcher having a pretty solid spring and Stanton sent him back to Fort Myers looking for answers.
I know I was impressed, but the immediate results were not unexpected by Stanton himself.
"You've got to expect the most," Stanton said of his spring debut. "If you're going to surprise yourself too often, you don't have enough confidence in yourself. It was definitely cool to be able to do that in my first game back."
The only thing more astonishing than Stanton's debut performance is how much it changed the Marlins' statistical leaderboard. After just four at-bats, Stanton is tied for the spring lead in home runs, and tied for third in RBIs. In FOUR at-bats. The other regulars have logged anywhere from 45 to 60 at-bats.
If you bumped Stanton down a couple rounds on your fantasy cheat sheets because of injury concern, feel free to move him up about five. Forget the quad, forget any other concern you may have, he's going to have an All-Star caliber season hitting out of Florida's cleanup spot, and he will be a major reason why we're still talking about the Marlins in late September.