TAMPA — After finishing batting practice in Dunedin, Fla., prior to a game against the Blue Jays on Saturday, Giancarlo Stanton hung around the field.
He watched Aaron Judge finish up his work and then walked alongside Judge, the two talking as they headed toward the locker room.
Judge, with the outside track, faced the screams of fans and critics who were asking for autographs or pictures or recognition.
Stanton, quite literally, had stepped into Judge’s shadow and received little notice.
One of the biggest sluggers on the planet, a 6-foot-6 giant who would stand out seemingly anywhere, is able to escape at least some attention with the Yankees because another one of the biggest sluggers on the planet has become a face of not just the team but the game.
“I think he probably likes that,” hitting coach Dillon Lawson said recently of Stanton. “His personality style is to be under the radar.”
If Stanton stays healthy this season, there would be a strong chance his game would make him harder to overlook.
The 33-year-old is quietly having a solid (if homer-less) Grapefruit League season and has shown peeks of his regular-season form: His 118.6 mph single on Thursday would have been the seventh hardest-hit ball in all of baseball last season.
Manager Aaron Boone repeatedly has harped on the need to keep Stanton healthy.
Due to a litany of injuries, Stanton has played a little over half of the Yankees’ regular-season games over the past four seasons — 290 of a possible 546 — and even when he has been in the lineup, nagging injuries often have affected his swing or kept him out of the outfield.
If he does manage to avoid the injured list for the first time since 2018?
“I think that if he stays healthy and Judge stays healthy, you’re looking at potentially 100 home runs between them,” Lawson said. “Giancarlo has a skill set that is unmatched.
“Even with Judge, Big G actually has a little bit more bat speed than someone who just hit 60-plus home runs and is obviously capable of doing that [himself].”
In his MVP season of 2017, Stanton smacked 59 homers with the Marlins but has not approached the total since.
He hit 38 home runs in 2018, when he and Judge both received MVP votes and debuted as the Yankees’ version of the Bash Brothers.
Last year, Stanton was terrific for the first three months of the season, when he blasted 19 home runs in 63 games and posted an .858 OPS.
An Achilles injury then knocked him on the injured list and appeared to bother him the rest of the year, relegating him to the DH slot in August and September.
Judge, in crushing an AL-record 62 home runs last season and turning a historic campaign into a $360 million contract and the title of Yankees captain, became the focus of opposing pitchers, media and fans.
“I don’t look at it like that,” Stanton said when asked if attention paid to Judge helps him. “I don’t have that focus. We have a very big responsibility for this team and the city to help us win every night, and it’s just the ultimate goal.”
The goal for the Yankees will be to have Stanton in the lineup as much as possible.
He played right field for the third time Sunday, and Boone wants him in the outfield for both lineup flexibility and health reasons: The Yankees believe the physical requirements in sometimes playing the outfield will help Stanton’s body stay active and healthy.
Boone has said a healthy Stanton would lead to a “massive” season — perhaps for both himself and Judge.
“Stanton having Judge helps Stanton. But Judge having Stanton helps Judge, too” Lawson said before referencing Stanton’s 2017 flirtation with home run history. “Big G had that experience; knew what it was like to be in a home run race.
“How many people on the planet could understand what it is to do what they do?”
For his part, Stanton did not want to make any predictions or state any individual goals. Entering Year 5 in The Bronx, he only has one.
“Championship. That’s it,” Stanton said. “You can’t skip to that. Everything before that has to go well, and you have to take those steps to get there.”