After missing ASG, Stanton ready for Classic stage

JUPITER, Fla. -- Participating in the World Baseball Classic is no substitute for the All-Star Game, but for Giancarlo Stanton, it remains a nice sense of achievement.

If not for injury, Stanton would have been able to experience both in less than a year.

The 23-year-old was Miami's lone All-Star in 2012. He was also entered in the Home Run Derby. But he was unable to attend the festivities in Kansas City due to right knee surgery.

In early March, Stanton will be joining Team USA in preparation for the Classic. To Stanton, playing for his country ranks right up there with achieving All-Star status.

"It's in the same ballpark," he said. "They are special in their own ways. Obviously, I'd like to do both. But the fact that I can do this now, and I wasn't able to do the All-Star Game, it's good for me."

The challenge for all players in the Classic is getting physically ready for intense games without sacrificing the necessary conditioning for the regular season.

"There is a lot of traveling early and a higher-level of play," Stanton said. "It's a good challenge to prepare myself. It's a little different. But there is the benefit to having USA on your chest and being able to play for your country."

If Team USA advances out of the first round, it will be playing at Marlins Park from March 12-16.