Giancarlo Stanton's MVP-caliber season was abruptly ended last year after he was hit by a pitch in his face in early September. Stanton missed the remainder of the season with multiple fractures in his face, along with dental damage.
Before stepping into the box on opening day, the new $315 million man is going to make sure he has no hesitations after enduring his gruesome injury. According to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, Stanton will wear a protective face guard attached to his helmet while he is at the plate during Spring Training.
In his offseason workouts, Stanton tested his new gear, and he is expected to be ready to go when Marlins position players begin workouts on Feb. 24 at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.
One of the biggest questions raised during Stanton's contract press conference was whether the Marlins front office, and even Stanton, were concerned about Giancarlo being hesitant when he initially starts to get some live at-bats. Although the front office and Stanton both shot down any notions that there would be hesitation or readjustments when Giancarlo steps back into the box, it would be human nature for him to feel, at least, somewhat tentative in the early stages of his return to the lineup. Of course, Stanton will not come out and admit that, but the face guard is a good precautionary measure to help Stanton feel protected and less vulnerable to having the same freak injury occur again.
In Frisaro's piece, Marlins President of Baseball Operations, Michael Hill, described the face guard that Stanton will wear as a "half cage".
The mask that Stanton will wear should be similar to the one that St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward currently wears. Heyward, formerly of the Atlanta Braves, was hit in his face by a Jon Niese fastball in August of 2013. The pitch fractured the right side of Heyward's jaw in two places causing him to miss just under a month of game action. Heyward wore the protective mask for the latter part of the 2013 season, and continued to wear it throughout last season.
Chase Headly, of the New York Yankees, also wore a protective mask this past season, after a pitch hit him in the face and injured his jaw. Upon returning, Headley wore the mask and did not report any major issues with it, noting that the only thing he had to adjust to was that he was able to see the protective mask out of the corner of his eye.
Fisaro also noted in his article that if Stanton feels comfortable wearing the mask, and it does not affect his plate vision, then he will continue to wear it during the regular season as well. Whether Stanton has any hesitations, or the protective mask causes issues, the Marlins are fortunate that Giancarlo will be ready to go day-one so that he will have all of Spring Training to get reacclimated at the plate and to test out the mask.