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Stanton back in N.Y., calls layoff ‘very frustrating’

NEW YORK — While Giancarlo Stanton is ready for what he hopes will be a dramatically healthier remainder of the season, the New York Yankees outfielder acknowledged Tuesday that his recent two-month-plus injured list stint was “very frustrating.”

A trio of injuries, one more serious than originally disclosed, made for a challenging return.

Shelved since April 1, Stanton came off the Yankees’ IL on Tuesday after three separate injuries derailed him. Twice during his rehab he had false starts, thinking he was nearly over one injury when another would appear.

“I was so close. Had a buildup and had to stop three times,” Stanton said.

Stanton batted fifth and played right field in Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, making a nice catch in the stands in the top of the second inning.

As he returned to the Bronx, Stanton was all smiles, saying he was “excited” to finally be back in pinstripes.

“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 file in and battle.”

The Yankees have gone from being in fourth place in the American League East the day before Stanton was hurt to holding a 1½-game lead on the division entering Tuesday’s game against the second-place Rays.

Initially, Stanton was placed on the IL with a left biceps strain. He had appeared in only three games, batting .250 (2-for-8) with one run scored, and no homers and no RBI. Stanton said Tuesday that the injury was a little more serious than a simple strain.

“I tore my bicep muscle,” he said.

Nearly three weeks later, the Yankees were preparing for his return. As they went on a West Coast road trip, he tagged along.

And then the first setback occurred.

“The bicep connects to your shoulder in two places, and when I was getting back swinging and getting moving around again, my shoulder started acting up,” Stanton said. “So we had to shut it down, get a cortisone shot, let that ease for a little bit.”

When the Yankees traveled to San Francisco following a four-game series at the Los Angeles Angels, Stanton stayed back in his native Southern California. He received the cortisone shot there and had to completely stop baseball activity.

Then, nearly a month later, in an extended spring training session at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Florida, he was hit by a pitch in his left knee. Again, he got shut down. That time, it was a left calf strain.

“I probably should have took some more time than I did, and that set me back because my knee wasn’t stable and my calf strained there,” Stanton said.

Three weeks after that, Stanton was back in the batter’s box, going through a minor league rehab assignment with the High-A Tampa Tarpons and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Through six games with both teams, he hit five home runs, and had a .286 average with 10 strikeouts.

“It’s just having the quickness and getting the barrel there,” Stanton said. “Obviously, the homers are the ultimate goal, but even if I just squared up a couple balls, that’s what you’re looking for.”

Stanton’s addition makes the deepening Yankees lineup that much better, manager Aaron Boone said.

“We’ve got a lot of dynamic players and hitters, and certainly Giancarlo is one of those,” Boone said. “Hopefully the length that we have in that lineup makes it difficult on the opposing team, on the opposing pitcher.”

Along with Stanton’s return, the Yankees last weekend traded for 400-homer hitter Edwin Encarnacion. The 36-year-old will move into the designated hitter role Stanton had previously occupied, forcing Stanton to more regularly play in the outfield. In terms of taking on a more defensive responsibility, Stanton said he was fine with that.

Outfielder Aaron Judge also is expected back sometime this week as he wraps a rehab assignment at Triple-A due to a left oblique strain.

“People are saying [it’ll be] like ‘Murderers’ Row,'” Yankees first baseman Luke Voit said. “It’ll be an intimidating lineup, especially because you get one guy out, you’re going to have to face the next guy.

“It will finally be nice to see some big dudes coming back in this locker room.”

Voit isn’t the only one looking forward to seeing the Yankees’ lineup at full strength once Judge arrives.

“We were already dangerous, and now it’s another icing to the cake,” Stanton added. “Once we’re at all full force, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m just glad to be back.”

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