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Sports Q&A: Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton speaks thoughtfully and swings a big stick — 71 homers the last two years. He holds forth on Marlins' off-season moves, steroids and other topics.

January 20, 2013|By Lance Pugmire
  • Giancarlo Stanton homered in each game of a series against the Dodgers in August.
Giancarlo Stanton homered in each game of a series against the Dodgers in… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

At 23, Giancarlo Stanton has 34- and 37-home-run seasons in his rearview mirror, and the promise of becoming the face of a franchise in front of him.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Miami Marlins slugger last week enjoyed one of the perks of stardom by being summoned to participate in promotional filming at Occidental College for 2K Sports' new Major League Baseball 2K13 video game, which will be on shelves for Xbox 360 on March 5.

Stanton, a product of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High, has witnessed some great upheaval around his franchise this off-season. The Marlins traded away stars including Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson a year after moving into a new stadium. He's not due for free agency until 2017.

Stanton also has an unusual perspective, being a naturally big slugger at the height of an era of performance-enhancing drug suspicion, cranking out tape-measure home runs like the 494-foot blast against Colorado last season or slamming homers against three Dodgers starters in consecutive games in August.

Do you play video games, and what does it mean to you to be so prominently featured in this one?

"I play MLB 2K, Madden and some old-school Mario Kart. Being in the game is something cool. You grow up playing and would create yourself. You don't have to do that anymore. You're already there."

You had a monster series at Dodger Stadium last year. What did that mean to you?

"That's always the highlight of the season, whether I do good or bad. Just all my friends and family can be there at once, not just in spurts; the people I played Little League with. It's bigger than my performance."

We have this discussion in the office: How big of a deal is strength in hitting? Not necessarily about how far you hit the ball, but a lot of times muscle can be a huge thing in regard to squaring up on an inside pitch and muscling a hit that way.

"Actual muscle isn't a factor. It's more about quickness. They say 'muscle it out,' but it's more about being quick enough to bring your hands inside. When you have to muscle something, you're either late or the ball's in off the plate, so you have to bring your hands in and kind of just hope for the best. It's still a good strategy to always stay inside the ball. And strength, having quick bat speed, also helps. Strength leads to . . . if you get jammed, the ball's not going to trickle off. You'll probably hit a blooper over the infield, or even farther."

You've hit some absolute bombs but have also been somewhat nagged by strikeouts (166 in 2011, 143 in 2012). Do those numbers bother you, or is it something that comes with the territory of being a power hitter?

"They bug me. I hate striking out, but at the same time I'm much better at letting them go, rather than earlier in my career worrying about it so much before the next at-bat against the guy. You grow as you play, and every year I work to cut them down. I hate it, but a popout is the same as a strikeout. It's a matter of productive at-bats, a matter of how you do it. If there's a runner on third with less than two outs, I clearly do not want to strike out."

What are your thoughts on the Marlins' moves? You get in that new stadium, there's a great deal of excitement and now they've made some moves where . . . I don't know what they're doing . . . dismantling the franchise.

"That's just how the business of it goes. You're not always happy with some things that go on. That's life. You're not always happy with things that go on in life on a daily basis. There's nothing I can do. You've got to deal with it and still take care of myself."

Have they assured you you're safe and not going to be traded?

"No. Nothing."

Do you anticipate a greater leadership role?

"There's no change on my part. I'm going to do the exact same thing I do. It's not like I'm the leader because this thing happened. It's not like I'm going in there to say, 'OK, everybody's gone now, look to me.'"

How do you weigh what the Marlins are doing when you're so close to Southern California baseball, where the Dodgers and Angels are spending, spending, spending? Does it make you homesick?

"I don't get homesick or nothing, but you see that. You can't be hoping you're on other teams. You've got to worry about the now. I've said I was upset" about the Marlins.

Being a slugger today, there is so much focus and suspicion on someone being big . . . it's like an automatic red flag to discussing the issue of performance-enhancing drugs. Do you feel that at all, the suspicion?

"It's not like my body has changed since I've played in high school, beyond being more mature. It's not like my power has changed, either. I'm not worried about it, and I'm not worried about what anyone says, either. I haven't heard anything said about me like that."

Now MLB will be testing for human growth hormone. How do you feel about the state of where the game is in rooting out this obvious problem?

"I'm OK with it. It's going to crack down on who's not going by the rules, and hopefully clean it completely with this step. Coming up as a kid, we watched that era go. It was fun to watch, but not at all good for kids to grow up and want to be like those guys. Even for players who have the ability to challenge for a spot on a team clean, battling against guys who are cheating. I'm glad they're doing this."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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