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MIAMI (AP) — Giancarlo Stanton still needs to have five teeth fixed or replaced, along with a procedure to assess how much blood remains in his sinus cavity, and he will be understandably leery the next time he grabs a bat.
He also knows things could be a whole lot worse.
The Miami slugger spoke out for the first time Thursday night about the injury that ended his season, doing so while still sporting a pair of slightly blackened eyes and with a wound evident over the left side of his mouth.
His return wasn't triumphant; the Marlins were beaten 6-2 by the Washington Nationals.
Stanton rejoined the club exactly one week after taking a fastball from Milwaukee's Mike Fiers in the face.
"Swelling's way down, much better than I envisioned," Stanton said. "Just got to get the grill fixed and we'll go from there."
Stanton sounded very much like himself, though he is still a bit uncomfortable about putting the extent of his dental damage on display. The 24-year-old outfielder met with reporters, but no photos or videos were permitted.
Jeff Baker drove in one run and scored another for the Marlins (74-78).
Miami native Gio Gonzalez (9-10) allowed two runs in seven innings, and Bryce Harper had three hits for the Nationals, who are pushing for home-field advantage in the NL playoffs. Kevin Frandsen and Anthony Rendon each had two hits for Washington (88-64), which took control with a five-run fourth off Miami starter Brad Hand.
Hand (3-8) gave up five earned runs and eight hits in five innings.
"It was nice to see him and see that he's doing all right," Hand said of Stanton. "But we've still got to come in here and get the job done."
Stanton said he remembers Fiers' arm action on the pitch, and thinks his eyes found the ball about midway through its journey to the plate. The pitch came in and caught the NL MVP contender in the face, and Stanton said he briefly blacked out.
"My ears were ringing," Stanton said. "I couldn't hear nothing, except the ring. I was checking my mouth, just the blood, mouth full and having chunks of teeth floating around."
Stanton hoped to play all 162 games this season, and even envisioned a return later this year after the injury. The Marlins ruled him officially out for 2014 earlier this week.
When he returns, Stanton said he will wear additional protection on his helmet. He doesn't expect to have any mental blocks about playing again.
"I think when we decide the protection, I'll have more reassurance," Stanton said.
Stanton led the NL with 37 home runs and 105 RBIs when he got hurt, plus had drawn more intentional walks than any other two NL players combined — all part of the reason why his teammates have insisted for weeks that he should be the league MVP.
"That's not up to me," Stanton said. "That's the voters. There's nothing I can do."
Stanton has heard from plenty of people who have endured similar injuries, including Atlanta's Jason Heyward. Stanton's orbital bone was broken by the pitch from Fiers — but not shattered, which is a critical distinction. Stanton said his vision is normal and that he anticipates no reason why he won't be able to begin his usual offseason program in December.
Still, the force of the hit was massive. Stanton's face was struck on the left, but blood was found in the sinuses on the right side of his head — with an additional CT scan still looming to assess that situation, which is currently preventing him from flying commercially. The Marlins brought him back to Miami on a private jet.
Stanton isn't sure how many stitches were needed to close the wounds, either.
"I was really fortunate," Stanton said. "I could have my mouth wired shut now, I could have a plate in my face, I could have a lot of things. I'll take a few missing teeth over all that. My face didn't do exactly what it was supposed to do by taking that force, but it helped me out."
K'S FOR CAPPS
Miami reliever Carter Capps recorded four outs, all by strikeout. He is the seventh Marlins pitcher to do that, according to STATS.
Nationals: 3B Ryan Zimmerman went 1 for 7 as the DH in a simulated game at the Nationals' training facility in Viera, Florida.
Marlins: RHP Jose Fernandez, out for the season because of elbow reconstruction surgery, might begin a light throwing regimen on Oct. 1.
Nationals: RHP Doug Fister (14-6, 2.55) gets the ball Friday night in Miami.
Marlins: RHP Tom Koehler (9-9, 3.71) starts Friday against Washington.
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