Giancarlo Stanton isn't sure when he'll step into a batter's box again or how it's going to feel, but one thing the Marlins' All-Star slugger is relieved to know is that his budding young career is far from over.
A week after a Mike Fiers fastball to his face ended his season, Stanton was reunited with his teammates Thursday night at Marlins Park. They shared hugs and smiles -- even though Stanton himself is still missing some teeth.
"It was just good to see them all, just hug them and talk to them a little bit and send them out there to do a good job," said Stanton, who didn't want TV cameras or photographers to partake in his 15-minute conversation with reporters outside the Marlins clubhouse moments before his teammates took on the division-winning Washington Nationals.
"I'm good. I feel alright," he continued. "The swelling is way down -- much better than I envisioned. I've just got to get the grill fixed and go from there."
Stanton, who met with team trainers Thursday, said he has a lot of dental work ahead of him. Doctors told him it will take six to eight weeks for his facial fractures to fully heal and it took "at least 10 stitches" to close the gash created when his teeth broke though his skin with the impact of the ball.
Stanton said with all the blood trapped up in his sinuses he still has to have another CT scan of his head performed before he's cleared to fly on commercial flights. The only reason he was able to fly home from Milwaukee was because the private jet owner Jeffrey Loria paid for was able to fly at lower altitudes.
Stanton said five teeth of his were damaged in all. "One is completely knocked out. One is halfway chipped. The others are about 30 percent," he said.
Stanton said he's seen the replays of what happened to him, but he's avoided seeing any of them in slow motion. He doesn't think he could stomach it.
So what does he actually remember about the pitch that struck him? "I remember just kind of his arm action," he said. "I wouldn't even say I remember the ball [hitting me] -- maybe just seeing it halfway [to the plate]."
Stanton said he blacked out and when he woke up with his ears were ringing. He said when he began moving his tongue around in his mouth all he could taste was blood and "chunks of teeth."
Stanton said at first he was worried his career might be over, but "once I found out my orbital [bone] wasn't shattered I was all right." His vision, he says, has not been affected.
"The way I looked at it my jaw could be broken, I could lose my teeth, but as long I’ll be able to see,” Stanton said. “That was the big thing for my career."
Stanton said once he does get back into the batter's box he will be wearing a protective face guard -- much like Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who had his jaw broken last year by a pitch.
Stanton said Heyward was among the many people in baseball – hit by a pitch in the face -- who reached out to him to share their experience.
Fiers did too. They exchanged text messages. “He just said obviously it wasn’t on purpose and how sorry he was and that it was tough to sleep for the first few nights and stuff,” Stanton said. “It was a good message.”
Stanton said he feels like he’s in a great mental state considering what has happened to him, but getting into a batter box will be the next tough hurdle. He’s happy, though, it won’t happen until spring training. In the meantime, he said, he’ll go home to California and train.
As for Stanton's teammates, relief pitcher A.J. Ramos, who is Stanton's roommate, said he was happy to see him Thursday morning. Ramos was the first teammate who got to see Stanton before he showed up at the ballpark in the evening.
Ramos said Stanton was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he's received not only from his teammates, but fans and others from outside the organization. Stanton echoed those sentiments and said it was cool his teammates hung up his No. 27 jersey in the dugout last Friday night in Philadelphia.
“It shows what kind of a player he is and how good of a guy he is,” Ramos said. “He is a superstar, but he’s also a really humble guy that people like.”
Stanton said the support he received "meant the world" to him. He said he sent out a before-and-after photo of himself on social media a couple days ago because he wanted fans and people who cared about him to see the progress he was making.
He also thanked everyone who has helped take care of him. His father has been staying with him and caring for him in the team.
Stanton, still very much in the National League MVP discussion, said what hurts him most is that he won't be able to finish the season. He had made it a personal goal to play in all 162 games. But he says he feels better knowing this injury was out of his control.
"If it would have been a muscle or something that had been previous I would have been extremely upset about it," he said. "But this isn't one of those [situations]. As far [as the MVP], that's not up to me. It's the voters and whatever. There's nothing I can do."