Stanton hopeful to play this year, but no guarantee

Stanton hopeful to play this year, but no guarantee

MIAMI -- Giancarlo Stanton is doing everything within his power to return this season, but the Marlins' All-Star right fielder acknowledged on Sunday there is a chance he won't.

Stanton still hasn't regained full strength in his left hand, which is causing discomfort when he swings. Until that goes away, don't expect to see the slugger in the Miami lineup.

Missing the final four weeks is possible.

"There's always a possibility," Stanton said. "But that's not what I'm looking for."

Stanton fractured his left hamate bone on June 26. Two days later he underwent surgery, and his recovery has been slowed primarily because he swings with such force, and his hand isn't responding.

Statcast™ has regularly tracked the exit velocity on Stanton's hardest hit balls put in play in the 115-120 mph range. Because of his tremendous bat speed and strength, he relies so heavily on his hands and wrists.

Another potential issue for Stanton's return is finding places to test his swing. The Minor League seasons are wrapping up soon, so he can't go back on rehab assignment. When he is close to playing, he will likely be hitting off pitching machines and in simulated games.

"You can't keep going with the days off and then coming up and still try to [play]," Stanton said.

Stanton was hopeful to be reinstated on Friday when the Marlins opened their three-game series with the Mets at Marlins Park. But in his first rehab assignment game with Class A Advanced Jupiter on Tuesday, he exited after three plate appearances because his hand wasn't feeling right.

He attempted to hit in the cage once after that incident, and felt just alright. And on Sunday at Marlins Park, he tested the hand again hitting off a tee.

Before his injury, Stanton was leading the Majors in home runs (27) and RBIs (67).

What's slowing the recovery process is the strength in Stanton's left pinkie and ring finger hasn't fully returned. Those fingers were impacted most by the surgery.

The Marlins had been hopeful to play most of September with a number of regulars who are currently on the disabled list. Stanton and ace Jose Fernandez are the two faces of the franchise who have yet to be on the field together this season.

Stanton ideally wants to play, but not necessarily for peace of mind. He just wants to get back into a playing routine.

"It's just not having seven months off from playing baseball," he said. "It's just better to be out there than not."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.