Yankees welcome back injured slugger Giancarlo Stanton

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton returned from the injured list and was in the lineup for Tuesday night’s scheduled game against division rival Tampa Bay.

The 2017 National League MVP was to bat fifth and play right field. Stanton last appeared in a big league game on March 31, landing on the injured list a day later with a strained left biceps that later led to shoulder complications.

“It’s been a long time. It feels longer than it has been for me,” Stanton said. “The boys have been fun to watch while I’ve been gone, so it’s going to be good to fall in and battle with them.”

The 29-year-old star began a short-lived rehab assignment in mid-May before a sore left calf landed him right back on the shelf.

“Once I was ready I started taking at-bats. First extended spring training, then I got hit in the knee and that set me back,” Stanton said. “I probably should have took some more time than I did, and that set me back because my knee was unstable and my calf strained.”

Stanton was 5 for 18 with four home runs and seven RBIs in five games for Tampa and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in his most recent rehab stint, which began a week ago and wrapped up on Sunday.

“It’s just having the quickness, me getting the barrel there,” Stanton said about his minor league production instilling confidence. “So obviously the homers are the ultimate goal, but if I just squared up a couple of balls that’s what I’m looking for.”

The hulking slugger rejoins the Yankees as they sit atop the American League East, 1 1/2 games in front of the visiting Rays. The Yanks have homered in 20 consecutive games, the second-longest stretch in franchise history, and rank fourth in the AL with 113 long balls.

The club acquired the league’s leading home run hitter in Edwin Encarnacion from Seattle on Saturday and expects fellow slugger Aaron Judge back from a strained oblique at some point on this homestand.

“We were already dangerous and now it’s another icing to the cake,” Stanton said with a smirk. “We got to build this together and once we’re all on full force, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m just glad to be back, and Aaron’s not far behind.”

New York shipped second baseman Starlin Castro and a pair of minor leaguers to Miami in exchange for the 6-foot-6 Stanton in December 2017, following an MVP season in which he hit a major league-leading 59 homers.

Stanton hit .266 with 38 homers and 100 RBIs for the Yankees last year. He is expected to spend most of his time in left field once Judge returns, with the designated hitter role reserved mainly for Encarnacion and Luke Voit.

“Excited to have those kinds of players, weapons, and hopefully they can get settled in here early and get comfortable and off we go,” manager Aaron Boone said about his power-laden lineup.

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