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Giancarlo Stanton struggling to measure up to high expectations of New York

Sun Sentinel — By Craig Davis Sun Sentinel

April 16-- NEW YORK-Don Mattingly has seen plenty of players come into New York and feel the heat of high expectations that has descended on Giancarlo Stanton as the former Marlins slugger struggles to find footing in pinstripes.

Stanton was booed in the home opener in the Bronx when he struck out five times and has been the target of criticism while posting career-low production for a first month of the season.

"It's New York. You struggle, you pay," said Mattingly, the Marlins manager who played his 14-year career for the Yankees and coached for them. "That's all there is to it. It's a day-in, day-out place. It don't matter what you did last year.

"You come here as a free agent [or in trade], you have no collateral. So you've got to go show it. You've got to go out and prove yourself on the field."

Coming into Monday's first regular-season encounter with his former team on a chilly night at Yankee Stadium, Stanton was batting .220 with three home runs, two of them coming on Opening Day in Toronto. He had struck out 25 times in 59 at-bats.

He had been floundering at .167 before a 6-for-17 surge on the just-concluded road trip, including a rare triple.

Ironically, prior to Monday's game Stanton was presented with the Silver Slugger Award he earned last year with the Marlins when he belted 59 homers and drove in 132 runs.

Stanton offered no insight into his transition from the big-league hinterland to the most demanding and unforgiving stage. He elected not to address South Florida media members Monday, including the Fox Sports Florida TV crew.

During a media session the day before in Detroit, Stanton said that facing the Marlins would be "just like any other game."

He went on to say, "It's cool to have a lot of guys I am familiar with. I think it will be a little different when I go to Miami," referring to the Yankees' visit to Marlins Park, Aug. 21-22.

Also in Detroit, he addressed the events that led to the trade to New York, and said he had no animosity toward Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, who chose not to attend this series to avoid "the awkward situation" he might encounter in returning to Yankee Stadium.

"I mean, I don't think there's any crazy bad blood besides what [the media] stirred up," Stanton said. "I mean, we were very honest with each other in our meetings and that's the business side of it, but there's no bad blood on this side."

Stanton appeared upbeat prior to Monday's game as he renewed acquaintances with former teammates who remain with the Marlins, including a lengthy chat with Justin Bour, the first baseman who also got off to a slow start before hitting four homers in the past week.

He acknowledged missing the Miami weather, as would be expected on a night the temperature was forecast to drop into the 40s.

"Yeah, that would be nice," Stanton said as he applied tape to a bat handle.

The heat of New York is a different matter. Stanton has never faced the scrutiny he's under now, playing in front of fans and media that not only demand excellence in every single at-bat but come unglued by every stretch of failure.

"I'm not surprised by it," Mattingly said of the boos directed at Stanton. "But in the same sense I know it changes once he gets his feel."

Mattingly, like everyone who watched Stanton during the past eight years with the Marlins, has seen similar stretches when it looked like his bat was lathered in baseball repellent.

There was May 2016, the worst month of his career when he batted .173 with four homers and seven RBIs while striking out 31 times, or 35 percent of his at-bats that month.

But that July he hit .305 with seven homers while the strikeouts dropped to 27.6 percent.

Stanton has always been streaky like that. Considering it was just last August that he had the most remarkable month of his career, walloping 18 homers, it would be ridiculous to suggest he's lost it at 28.

Nonetheless, the headlines have been alarmist, if not downright comical. In the latter category: "Giancarlo Stanton's Start With Yankees is Comically Disastrous"

Even the New York Times got into the act of trying to explain Stanton's funk and came up with: "Giancarlo Stanton bothered by pressure? No. Furniture? Maybe"

The premise was that Stanton was distracted during the first homestand by the demands of moving into the apartment he is sharing with buddy A.J. Ramos, the former Marlins closer now with the Mets. There was confusion surrounding the delivery of furniture and other details to attend to.

Simple as it sounds, that may have something to do with his slow start. He simply hasn't had a chance to settle into new surroundings before being thrust into the NYC fishbowl.

Asked if the pressure of New York could be getting to Stanton, Mattingly said, "I think that's the one thing you really don't know. Here, it's just a different place."

Mattingly continued, "I think you just hold yourself accountable. Nobody had to tell me if I was struggling."

Going into Monday, Stanton had only played 14 games for the Yankees, just the hors d'oeuvres in the seven-course meal of a big-league season.

So far he seems to be handling the criticism better than he has fastballs. After the first of two five-strikeout games, he said, "I was awful today. You put up a performance like that, you should get some boos."

Stanton is doing what Stanton has always done, amping up his effort in the batting cage, even after games. Monday he wasn't talking.

Just wait until he gets done arranging the furniture.

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