MIAMI -- An injury kept Giancarlo Stanton off a national stage last summer. But now fully healthy, the Marlins slugger welcomes the opportunity to compete in front of an international audience.
Stanton and right-handed reliever Steve Cishek have been selected to represent the Marlins on Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, which takes place in March. The only other member of the Marlins' organization slated to play in this year's Classic is right-handed pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who is on Venezuela's provisional roster.
Stanton is a rising star who is posting monstrous power numbers. In 2012, the All-Star connected on 37 home runs, second most in the National League behind Ryan Braun of the Brewers, who had 41.
Cishek took advantage of his opportunity to serve as a closer after Heath Bell was demoted to a setup role this past summer. The 26-year-old right-hander notched 15 saves and compiled a 2.69 ERA in a career-high 68 appearances.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel will likely handle the closing duties for Team USA. But Cishek, Cleveland's Chris Perez and Bell will also be available if necessary. The Marlins traded Bell to the D-backs in November.
Alvarez went 9-14 with a 4.85 ERA in 31 starts with Toronto this past season. The 22-year-old right-hander was acquired in November's blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays.
Stanton's .608 slugging percentage last year was the highest in the Major Leagues, topping Miguel Cabrera's .606. Stanton was the NL Player of the Month in May, delivering 12 home runs and 30 RBIs to go along with a .343 batting average. In the month, he also provided a highlight moment that continues to be replayed.
On May 21, the impact of Stanton's grand slam off Colorado's Jamie Moyer knocked out a strand of lights on the auxiliary scoreboard at Marlins Park.
As strong a season as Stanton had, many wondered what might have been had he stayed healthy. The right fielder was limited to 123 games, and he missed a month due to right knee surgery. Stanton underwent a procedure to remove two cartilage chips from his knee on July 8, and he returned on Aug. 7.
Selected to his first All-Star Game, Stanton was forced to miss the Midsummer Classic because he had surgery the day before he was scheduled to compete in the Home Run Derby. Although he was not able to represent his team and the NL last summer, Stanton has made it clear he is honored to wear the red, white and blue of Team USA.
"Anything that represents your country is a big deal," Stanton told MLB.com in September when asked about taking part in the Classic. "It's relatively new. To have that be more popular, or make that more important to people, is ideal.
"You never know how long a career can be, and you want to get that experience. You never know how your health will be. In three years, something could go wrong. I'm able to do it now and have no reason not to."
Stanton is the first marquee Marlins player to represent Team USA in the Classic since Dontrelle Willis in 2006. The franchise has had other big names, like Hanley Ramirez and Cabrera, compete in the Classic for their respective countries. In '09, Ramirez was with the Dominican Republic squad. And Cabrera was on Team Venezuela in '06.
At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Stanton is emerging into a force in the game. In three big league seasons, he has rapidly climbed the Marlins' all-time home run leaderboard. He has 93 homers in 373 games since being called up on June 8, 2010.
Stanton's 37 home runs a year ago are the second most by a Marlin in a season. Gary Sheffield belted 42 in 1996. The World Baseball Classic will provide an opportunity for fans globally to see Stanton play alongside some of the biggest names in the game.
For much of the offseason, there has been speculation that the Marlins might trade Stanton. The roster has been made over, and the team has a policy of listening to offers on any of its players.
However, it is extremely doubtful Stanton will be moved at all in 2013. The young slugger is eligible for arbitration next year and free agency after the '16 season.