Stanton back in N.Y., calls layoff 'very frustrating'

NEW YORK -- While Giancarlo Stanton is ready for what he hopes will be a dramatically healthier remainder of the season, the New York Yankees outfielder acknowledged Tuesday that his recent two-month-plus injured list stint was "very frustrating."

A trio of injuries, one more serious than originally disclosed, made for a challenging return.

Shelved since April 1, Stanton came off the Yankees' IL on Tuesday after three separate injuries derailed him. Twice during his rehab he had false starts, thinking he was nearly over one injury when another would appear.

"I was so close. Had a buildup and had to stop three times," Stanton said.

Stanton batted fifth and played right field in the Yankees' 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts but making a nice catch in the stands in the top of the second inning.

As he returned to the Bronx, Stanton was all smiles, saying he was "excited" to finally be back in pinstripes.

"It's been a long time. It feels longer than it has been, for me," Stanton said. "The boys have been fun to watch while I've been gone, so it's going to be good to file in and battle."

The Yankees have gone from being in fourth place in the American League East the day before Stanton was hurt to holding a 2½-game lead on the division following Tuesday's win over the second-place Rays.

In terms of his hitless first game back, Stanton -- who was booed following his second strikeout by some of the more than 40,000 in attendance -- said he thought he chased a little too much in his first big league game in nearly 80 days.

"I didn't swing at the best pitches," Stanton said. "But I had OK at-bats."

Added Yankees manager Aaron Boone: "Still finding his way. Finding his timing. He'll get there."

Apparently Stanton has already found his timing in the field.

On the last play in the top of the second inning, Stanton raced over from his position in right field to the wall in foul territory. As a fan reached up at the last minute for the ball, Stanton extended his long frame into the stands, securing the catch just as the baseball whizzed over the fan's glove.

"The wind was swirling out there, so I just thought I'd get to the wall and maybe it'd come back," Stanton said.

When it came to his injuries, initially, Stanton was placed on the IL with a left biceps strain. He had appeared in only three games, batting .250 (2-for-8) with one run scored, and no homers and no RBI. Stanton said Tuesday that the injury was a little more serious than a simple strain.

"I tore my bicep muscle," he said.

Nearly three weeks later, the Yankees were preparing for his return. As they went on a West Coast road trip, he tagged along.

And then the first setback occurred.

"The bicep connects to your shoulder in two places, and when I was getting back swinging and getting moving around again, my shoulder started acting up," Stanton said. "So we had to shut it down, get a cortisone shot, let that ease for a little bit."

When the Yankees traveled to San Francisco following a four-game series at the Los Angeles Angels, Stanton stayed back in his native Southern California. He received the cortisone shot there and had to completely stop baseball activity.

Then, nearly a month later, in an extended spring training session at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Florida, he was hit by a pitch in his left knee. Again, he got shut down. That time, it was a left calf strain.

"I probably should have took some more time than I did, and that set me back because my knee wasn't stable and my calf strained there," Stanton said.

Three weeks after that, Stanton was back in the batter's box, going through a minor league rehab assignment with the High-A Tampa Tarpons and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Through six games with both teams, he hit five home runs, and had a .286 average with 10 strikeouts.

"It's just having the quickness and getting the barrel there," Stanton said. "Obviously, the homers are the ultimate goal, but even if I just squared up a couple balls, that's what you're looking for."

Stanton's addition makes the deepening Yankees lineup that much better, Boone said.

"We've got a lot of dynamic players and hitters, and certainly Giancarlo is one of those," Boone said. "Hopefully the length that we have in that lineup makes it difficult on the opposing team, on the opposing pitcher."

Along with Stanton's return, the Yankees last weekend traded for 400-homer hitter Edwin Encarnacion. The 36-year-old is moving into the designated hitter role Stanton had previously occupied, forcing Stanton to more regularly play in the outfield. Encarnacion hit his first home run in pinstripes Tuesday night, going to the opposite field in the eighth inning.

Stanton said he was fine with the idea of taking on more defensive responsibility.

Outfielder Aaron Judge also is expected back sometime this week as he wraps a Triple-A rehab assignment due to a left oblique strain.

"He's really close," Boone said. "Physically, he's ready to go. Biggest thing is getting the reps."

Judge went 1-for-2 with a home run, a strikeout and two walks for the RailRiders on Tuesday.

Asked whether Judge might be up Friday, Boone said, "It's possible. It's possible, yeah."