With new name, Stanton poised to raise profile
JUPITER, FLA. | His mom calls him Cruz. Teammates call him Bigfoot. Most baseball fans know him as Mike Stanton, precocious slugger for the Miami Marlins, but his first name is actually Giancarlo.
“The man of a million names,” Stanton said.
He likes them all, but with spring training cranking up and Stanton touted as a future home-run champion, he said Wednesday he prefers Giancarlo.
For the first time, that’s the way he’s identified on the Marlins’ roster. That’s also the name on his paycheck and above his locker. That’s what team owner Jeffrey Loria calls him.
But Stanton’s dad calls him Mike, and many of his relatives call him Mikey.
“I respond to many names,” he said. “It’s all good.”
The Marlins expect to see his surname in a lot of headlines this year. He has 56 career home runs, and in the past 40 years only Ken Griffey Jr. (60) and Alex Rodriguez (56) have hit at least that many before their 22nd birthday. Stanton turned 22 in November.
“This kid has potential that’s unbelievable,” new manager Ozzie Guillen said.
The Marlins’ cleanup hitter and right fielder is thickly built at 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds — thus the nickname Bigfoot, which dates to his year at Single-a Greensboro. In two major-league seasons he has developed a reputation for mammoth homers, and his batting-practice sessions tend to draw a large audience of teammates and opposing players.
Guillen said he’s not interested in tape-measure homers.
“I told Stanton, ‘I hear you hit balls 700 feet. Don’t give me 700 feet. Just give me 40 that barely make the wall,’ ” Guillen said.
Stanton said he doesn’t care how far his homers travel. Last season he hit 34 while batting .262 with 87 RBI.
This year he’ll play in a new ballpark for a team with a much higher profile — and a new name. So the timing of a name change for Stanton makes sense.
His full name is a sonorous mouthful: Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton. He’s not Italian, and Giancarlo isn’t a family name — his parents just liked it.
In school, the California native went by Giancarlo until the fifth grade.
“No one could pronounce it right,” he said. “You have seven periods in school, so seven times a day: ‘No, that’s not the name.’ ” So he switched to Mike.
PHILLIES: First baseman Ryan Howard missed workouts again Wednesday after a procedure Monday to remove an infection around his surgically repaired Achilles tendon. Howard, who had the original surgery in October, took part in workouts when camp opened but stopped after batting practice Saturday. He’s been held out of all baseball activities since, and he left the team Monday to see Dr. Mark Myerson in Baltimore.
PIRATES: Newly acquired starting pitcher A.J. Burnett was struck in the face by a batted ball Wednesday. He will fly from the team’s spring training complex to Pittsburgh to have his right eye examined by team doctors. Burnett was injured as he hit during a bunting drill. After the ball hit the temple near his right eye, a dazed Burnett dropped into a crouch near home plate. Players who had gathered to watch the drill gasped loudly, then went quiet as Burnett sagged to his knee.
DIAMONDBACKS: Arizona and catcher Miguel Montero have ended talks on a multiyear contract until after this season, when he will be a free agent. The two sides have been in talks in recent weeks, but general manager Kevin Towers said no agreement could be reached. Both he and Montero said they did not want the contract issue to be a distraction as the Diamondbacks defend their NL West crown.
MINOR LEAGUES: Free agent pitcher Justin Dowdy has been suspended for 50 games under baseball’s minor-league drug program for refusing to take a test. The suspension will start when the 28-year-old left-hander, who has never appeared in the majors in a 10-year professional career, signs with a big league organization.