SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. –- Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is still battling a respiratory ailment and isn’t completely over the intestinal distress that necessitated a trip to the hospital in Venezuela last month.
But he took grounders as part of a scaled-down infield workout on a back field Wednesday, and he’ll be working as hard as anyone in Giants camp this spring.
Yes, the Panda does need to shed a few pounds.
“You go back to 2011 and he showed up in as good a shape as I’ve seen him,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “This year he’s got to lose a little bit, and he knows it. He’ll be up there doing his conditioning. Not long ago, guys used spring training to get in shape. They had other jobs in the offseason. Pablo’s one of our exceptions now. We’ll use the spring to get him in shape.”
The Giants don’t have the same leverage they did after the 2010 season, when a wheezing Sandoval lost his job down the stretch and still had a minor league option. The situation is different now. You don’t threaten a World Series MVP with a trip to Fresno.
Now, the club knows, it’s up to Sandoval to be disciplined and diligent so he can be as productive as possible, which will set him up for a long and financially rewarding career.
There’s one thing in his favor after missing so much time on the DL in each of the last two seasons.
“We know we’ve got the hamate bones out of the way,” Bochy said. “He won’t be dealing with those again.”
Sandoval, a switch hitter, had fractured hamate bones removed from each hand over the past two seasons.
I must’ve been telepathically connected to Chris Haft of MLB.com because in the manager’s session, he asked the very same Sandoval question that I was thinking: Has Bochy ever considered flip-flopping the Panda and Buster Posey in the lineup?
Posey is a batting champ and the MVP, after all, and it’s always a good idea to ensure him an at-bat in the first inning.
Bochy said it’s been kicked around, but his quick addendum was from the “if it ain’t broke…” series.
Watching all 37 pitchers take the field for the first time, it seemed as if the full squad has already reported. It’s amazing how many pitchers are here, especially when there’s only one job available on the Opening Day staff if everyone stays healthy.
(The Giants will lose their share to the World Baseball Classic, so they have to cover innings.)
Candidates for that last bullpen spot include Dan Runzler, Scott Proctor, Chad Gaudin, Yusmeiro Petit, Jean Machi, Sandy Rosario and Ramon Ramirez. There’s plenty of time to evaluate them, but the final selection has as much to do with how the rotation looks in the last week of the spring. If one of more of those five are struggling or a bit tender, then the club will be more inclined to keep a long man.
Petit is out of minor league options, by the way. So is third baseman Conor Gillaspie.
They can’t be sent to the minors without being designated for assignment and clearing waivers.
Seems like some other players have been on the 40-man roster forever (Dan Runzler, Francisco Peguero, Ehire Adrianza), but they all have an option left, so vice president Bobby Evans tells me.
Throwing adjacent to Tim Lincecum was another former Giants first-round pick, but one with a much different career arc.
It was right-hander Boof Bonser, who was dealt to Minnesota in 2003 (along with Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano) for catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Bonser owns a 5.18 ERA in parts of five seasons with the Twins, Red Sox and the A’s, where he last appeared in the big leagues in 2010. He’s fully aware of the Ryan Vogelsong story and would like nothing better than to catch a little of that pixie dust.
Bonser told me he had bone chips removed from his elbow in December and has been rehabbing in Scottsdale since early January. Today was his third time off a mound and while he probably won’t face hitters as early as the rest of the pitchers, he expects to be up to speed soon enough.
There’s always at least one young kid in his first big league camp who gets way too excited on the first day and looks like he’s going to throw his arm out of his socket. Last year, Heath Hembree was overthrowing. I remember watching Tyler Walker the first time he was in camp with the Giants and being concerned the big guy would put himself on an operating table before the day was over.
This year, Edward Concepcion wins the “trying to make the team on the first day” award. I hope he remembered to ice down his arm after that first session. Concepcion does throw hard, though.
One guy who didn’t overthrow was Brett Bochy, probably because the one thing his dad told him was, well … “You’re not going to make the team on the first day.”
I wouldn’t say Brett Bochy has a clean delivery. He crossfires a little and it makes sense that he’s had some durability issues as a result. But the ball does cut quite a bit. I think one of the reasons he’s struck out so many minor league hitters is that his motion is so slow that you think the ball’s going to arrive at 65 mph. So his upper 80s stuff probably seems jumpier as a result.
Lincecum, on having the manager’s son a few lockers down from him:
“When my dad was my coach that was the hardest part because you wouldn’t want to (tick) him off all the time,” Lincecum said. “You feel like everything you’re doing, he’s watching you and criticizing you so he’s probably feeling the same way.”
Catcher Andrew Susac took his lumps at Single-A San Jose last season, and he didn’t draw an easy assignment for his first bullpen session of the spring. Yep, it was scud machine Jeremy Affeldt. The lefty only threw a few in the dirt, though.
Concepcion probably was the toughest pitcher to catch on the first day. He did the Giants the favor of testing the structural integrity of the chain-link fence behind the bullpen area.
No pitcher cut short his mound session but Javier Lopez didn’t have a good one. He shook his head after several pitches missed their spots and fired one submarine style before calling it a day before the others in his group were done. Lopez told me he just expected more from himself, even on the first day, and had no health issues.
Remember, Lopez plans to skip the World Baseball Classic if he doesn’t feel he’s ready. He should have a gauge on that in another 10 days or so, and he and Bruce Bochy talked about it prior to Wednesday’s workout.
Ramon Ramirez and minor leaguer Jose Valdez were not in camp for the first workout, but that was expected. Both pitchers are trying to get their visas approved, and because Ramirez signed so late, he couldn’t submit his papers until last week.
I watched the catchers take batting practice and while Buster Posey put a couple on the berm in left field, easily the most impressive power display belonged to Johnny Monell.
I was surprised the Giants didn’t lose Monell in the Rule 5 draft. His catching skills still require a lot of work, but Monell has such easy, left-handed power. It’s the kind of power that can play at AT&T Park, too. As Dave Righetti likes to say of power hitters, when they hit ‘em, they stay hit.
Monell had a very good winter ball in Puerto Rico, and while he’s not really a candidate to make the team, I plan to keep an eye on him. He might be a better fit for an AL club where he can DH and maybe serve as a third catcher, so even if he doesn’t make the big leagues as a Giant, he might be a piece to trade down the line. Then again, teams just passed on a chance to take him for $50,000. So Monell has some work to do.
I enjoy a little more time to read in the spring and I picked up R.A. Dickey’s book, “Wherever I Wind Up.” In addition to being a terrific title, it’s an honest, humble and revealing look into his life. The book came out before last season, when Dickey emerged as the NL Cy Young winner.
Within the first 30 words, Dickey writes, “I will never lead the league in strikeouts.”
And it dawned on me: Dickey led the NL with 230 strikeouts last season – one more than Clayton Kershaw.