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Stanton and Cishek back from WBC to reality in Jupiter

JUPITER -- A packed house at Roger Dean Stadium on Sunday afternoon for St. Patrick’s Day isn’t quite the same as what Giancarlo Stanton and Steve Cishek have grown accustomed to so far this spring.

With their Team USA colors retired for four more years as the American team was eliminated from World Baseball Classic action, the pair returned to the Marlins camp in Jupiter.

“I’m pretty much ready to get started with the season,” Cishek said. “After going through [the WBC], spring training games are going to be hard to get the adrenaline going for.”

The exhilaration of representing thier country on an international stage, and playing on a roster that rivals any all star contingency isn’t lost on either of them.

“At first it was a little overwhelming, like, ‘Wow, what am I doing here?’” Cishek said when asked about being a part of Team USA.

“It was amazing to see all these guys’ approaches, like [Joe] Mauer, [Ryan] Braun, and[David] Wright,” Stanton said. “I mean, I see Wright a lot, but it was different being on their side and not being in right field.”

Stanton was especially wowed by Mauer, spending most of his time batting behind the Twins’ veteran in the lineup.

“He’s unbelievable...” he said. “You can give him 0-2 every at-bat and he’s got no problem with it.”

The Marlins slugger has had the luxury of being surrounded by some of the game’s best players with his notable All-Star Game selection last season. Cishek, on the other hand, has quietly been a presence in the Marlins bullpen for the better part of the last two seasons.

“I didn’t go out there to prove myself, I went out there to put a zero on the board,” the reliever said of the opportunity to showcase his talents. “It was kind of cool because it showed me I could play with those guys. Just playing against them is humbling enough, nevermind being on the same team as them.

“That was probably one of the coolest things about [the WBC] was just how humbling it was to be around that group.”

Transitioning back in to spring training mode was nearly seamless for the two, with Stanton batting third in the lineup and Cishek getting a scoreless inning of relief in the eighth inning on Sunday.

Cishek, who is expected to continue with his late-2012 duties as closer for the Marlins, felt the experience with Team USA prepped him for the adrenaline of the later innings in a major league ball game. He describes the WBC crowd as ‘electric’, and unlike anything he experienced last season.

“I was pretty fired up when I went into those WBC games,” he said. “Hopefully that transitions into the year now. I’m prepared to take a step back, take a deep breath and then go at it.”

The homecoming isn’t without hard feelings; there’s disappointment in not taking Team USA to the final round of the Classic in San Francisco. Partially, because the contest doesn't provide a true reflection of a series-based match up between two teams. Stanton argues in a one-off, anything can happen.

"Baseball it’s so tough, you can have a triple-A team beat a big league team with certain pitching once," he said.

There's no appeal in breaking down flaws in format, timing, or different preparations for different countries. With Stanton, it's a closed case: "We lost."

“You don’t go there just to make an appearance and experience the WBC. We went there with the objective to win it all,” Cishek said. “It was disappointing, but at the same time, it’s great to be around these guys again and to get situated with the team.”

With the next opportunity four years down the road, Stanton won’t say no to an invite to try again.

“We’ve still got to be the first ones,” he said. “USA still needs to win it.”

-Steph Rogers

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