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Stanton working toward becoming the total package

Marlins masher getting better in all aspects; excited to play in Classic

Stanton working toward becoming the total package

JUPITER, Fla. -- Giancarlo Stanton is known for belting a baseball a very long way. But in preparation for Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic, the Marlins' slugger spent extra time strengthening his legs.

More specifically, he increased his offseason conditioning by doing more running.

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"If anything, I ran a lot more," Stanton said. "I changed up my workouts, just more running, in general."

Whatever revision the 23-year-old has made to his routine, it certainly seems to be working.

Even though it is early in Grapefruit League play, Stanton is already locked in at the plate. He's batting .400 (6-for-15) with a home run, double, triple and four RBIs.

There are also signs of improvement in the field, as he is getting terrific jumps and showing range to make catches on balls hit into the gap.

On Friday, in an 8-7 loss to the Twins, Stanton had a sacrifice fly in the first inning. The day before, against the Cardinals, he was 3-for-3 with a double, triple and homer.

"He's a special player," manager Mike Redmond said. "He can throw. He can play defense. He hits. He hits for power. He does it all. He's a five-tool guy.

"I heard so much about him. Everybody always said the same thing, how great a player this guy is. Now we get to see him. It's been a brief amount of time. He is a great player. It's fun to watch him."

For at least a couple of weeks, the Marlins won't be seeing Stanton on a day-to-day basis. The slugger will not play on Saturday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie. And on Sunday, he will travel to Arizona to hook up with Team USA to get ready for the Classic.

Representing the United States is something Stanton has looked forward to ever since he found out he was on Team USA's provisional roster.

Until now, he's tried not to look ahead and get overly excited for the Classic.

Now, he is expected to start in right field for his country.

"It's going to be good," Stanton said. "I've been more trying to make sure I'm ready to go. Now that this is my last game here, and everything is starting to come together, it will be good. It will be fun."

The Classic will provide an international stage for Stanton to perform.

Marlins fans already have seen what the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder is capable of doing. His pure power has long impressed, making his batting practice rounds worth the price of admission.

On a youthful Marlins roster, Stanton is the biggest force in the lineup. He is currently batting third, behind Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco.

Hitting coach Tino Martinez is working with Stanton on being selective, knowing that he will likely be pitched around.

"I know teams are going to pitch him tough," Redmond said. "I know he's working with Tino on being selective and trying to get pitches he knows he can drive. That will continue to always be a work in progress with young players.

"It's always good early in the spring to see guys, when they get their pitch, they're on it. He's on it right now. That's good to see."

Since breaking into the big leagues on June 8, 2010, Stanton has 93 home runs in 373 games. In 2012, a season in which he missed a month due to right knee surgery, he finished with 37, second most in the National League.

"He's a freak baseball player," said third base coach Joe Espada, who has seen every one of Stanton's blasts. "He really wants to be great. You see him working on it."

Whether it is fielding ground balls in the outfield or hitting soft-toss flips in the cage, Stanton has a desire for excellence.

"When we do baserunning, he wants to make sure he doesn't mess up in the game," Espada said. "He wants to be great."

It's a source of pride for Stanton to be considered more than a home run hitter.

Growing up, he was a three-sport standout at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Stanton was recruited to play football at the University of Southern California, and he also played baseball.

"He's just getting smarter," Espada said. "He's starting to understand the game. He's starting understand what pitchers are trying to do and what he needs to do to become a successful Major League player. That's what he's doing. It's not so much physically, it's mentally. He works on that every single day on the field."

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

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