LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giancarlo Stanton predicts the pain level felt by baseballs is going to rise with his dock-rope arms joining the muscular Yankees lineup.
“I feel sorry for the baseballs,’’ Stanton said on YES Monday from here at the Winter Meetings, where the Yankees trotted out the hulking slugger acquired Friday from the Marlins.
With Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Stanton in the lineup, the Yankees are looking forward to the baseballs being punished as they leave bats headed for seats.
But the more pressing topic is where Stanton and Judge fit into the lineup. General manager Brian Cashman said Brett Gardner is the regular left fielder and Jacoby Ellsbury will attempt to beat out Aaron Hicks in center.
That leaves right field, where Judge displayed Gold Glove skills last year, and DH. Because Stanton and Judge are right fielders without much DH experience, moving them between the two spots is the plan — at least right now. And that plan could take time for each player to adjust to.
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“DH, right field, maybe left field. Just depends on the circumstances of our club at the time and who is needing more time in the DH role,’’ Cashman said. “[Stanton’s] attitude’s been great, it’s like, ‘Hey, whatever you need me to do, I’m there. I’ll do whatever you guys think is best.’ So we have spots for everybody.’’
Depending on the park — Fenway and Camden Yards for example — and on the days Gardner might get a game off against a lefty, Judge or Stanton could surface in left, a position neither has played in the big leagues.
“I think they’re both athletic enough that if other issues arise on the club, you know maybe left field is an opportunity for either one of them,’’ Cashman said. “We’ll find out over time. Clearly right field and DH work, but I think they’re athletic enough to be considered elsewhere. But the very easiest aspect of it is right field and DH, and I think both players will benefit from the DH rest. You won’t have to run somebody into the ground every day.’’
Stanton, last season’s NL MVP, has been the DH in 13 games and was enthused about the role.
“I’m fine with it. I can bounce around. Wherever they need me I’m OK with that. I always liked DHing when we played the AL teams in previous years,’’ said Stanton, who has hit .333 with a 1.019 OPS in 54 at-bats as a DH.
Cashman called Judge, who is a better right fielder than Stanton, before making the deal to see how the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year felt about the possibility of shifting between right, DH and possibly left.
“We’re going to do everything we can to win and that’s going to make it easier in that matter,’’ Cashman said of Judge’s answer. “He said, ‘Hey, I’m pumped. This is exciting. If you could pull that off, that would be amazing.’ I didn’t talk about who we would be giving up, so he didn’t know that aspect.’’
In 11 games (10 starts) at DH, Judge has hit .294 with a 1.114 OPS in 34 at-bats.
When a team has a 28-year-old and owes him $265 million for a decade, it makes sense he plays where he is comfortable, but, at least in December, the Yankees aren’t set on Stanton in right and Judge the DH full time.
“We’re going to juggle it. Those are things that we’ll flesh out in spring training. Who do we believe potentially would move over to play left field in a 20-, 30-game situation. Use the DH role strategically, play different matchups that give certain guys days off depending upon the matchups,’’ new manager Aaron Boone said. “So I do feel like it’s a really good problem that we have.’’
As for Judge, Stanton and Sanchez, all right-handed hitters, batting in a row, Boone said it can be done.
“Absolutely you can. That will be one of those things that we flesh out. What’s Greg Bird’s continued development? What is the matchup? Do we feel like we want one of those lefties breaking those three guys up?” Boone said. “It’s something that is a possibility, but I would have no reservation if we feel like it’s best to string those three dudes together.’’