SAN FRANCISCO – Pablo Sandoval, battling head congestion, wasn’t at his most energetic while gutting through the Giants’ annual FanFest on Saturday.
But that didn’t prevent him from jabbing with a few of his teammates, who will be his foes in the World Baseball Classic next month. He jokingly vowed to turn and burn on Team USA pitchers Jeremy Affeldt and Ryan Vogelsong, and Team Mexico reliever Sergio Romo, too.
And why not? Sandoval was the World Series MVP. He was named MVP of the Venezuelan Winter Legue championship series, after leading Magallanes to its first title since 2002.
How about WBC MVP as well?
“Watch out!” said Sandoval, wearing a deep red Venezuela cap and jersey.
“Uh, no,” said Affeldt, as he shared a Q&A stage with the Panda. “I’ll just throw a rosin bag and you’ll swing at it.”
As everyone knows, Sandoval is a free swinger. He’s able to barrel up pitches from his eyes to his shoe tops. But nobody’s got a better scouting report on him than his own Giants teammates.
“Did you know,” said Romo, lowering his voice, “that the key to getting him out is to throw it down the middle? I played with him every year since 2005. He’d get a pitch down the middle and I’d ask him, `How did you miss it?’ He’d say, `Yeah, I got excited.’
“I’ll throw it down the middle and after the catcher catches his pop up, I’ll point to him and say, Ha!”
Ryan Vogelsong, who shared a Q&A stage with Romo at FanFest on Saturday, said he’d make it even simpler.
“Everybody loves Panda, but he said today that he’d take me deep,” Vogelsong said. “I told him, `You can’t hit it if I hit you first. … And let’s face it, Panda’s no small target.”
On that topic: I haven't had the chance to talk with Sandoval yet, but after seeing him up close today, he looks about the same size as when he ended last season. As I've said before, Sandoval always will have to watch his weight and conditioning. But the number on the scale isn't as important as his all-around athleticism and stamina. If he's panting after a half-dozen ground balls or his range deteriorates or it's clear he isn't able to maintain a quality at-bat late in a game, then it'll be asked about. For now, I think it's appropriate that he gets the benefit of the doubt. World Series MVPs are usually afforded that much.
More from the Romo/Vogelsong Q&A session, in which both pitchers wore their WBC jerseys:
Vogelsong said he watches a lot of video so he remembers how he got hitters out and what kind of wrinkle he might want to add for the next confrontation. Sergio Romo confessed he’s less into video.
“What did I get that guy out with last time? Oh, slider,” Romo said. “And the time before that? Slider. And before that? Oh, slider again. Well, I guess it’s going to be a slider. Surprise!
“So when it comes to film, I’d rather watch cartoons or something,” Romo joked.
Romo gave a very entertaining and expansive answer when asked to relive the decision to throw a fastball to Miguel Cabrera that froze the Triple Crown winner to clinch the World Series.
“I think I’m the only one in the world who wanted to throw a fastball there,” said Romo, who admitted he was offended when Cabrera said prior to Game 1 that he’d adjust to the right-hander’s signature slider.
“I mean, he called me out and he’d never faced me before!” Romo said. “So when he fouled off a slider, I thought, `Know what? I’ve got to throw a fastball here.’ I hate to say it was ballsy. I just think it was smart.”
Romo’s hitting approach is less cerebral. He described stepping in for a rare plate appearance in the NL Division Series against the Reds’ Jonathan Broxton, who looks like he just climbed down a giant beanstalk.
“I grabbed Scutaro’s bat and a helmet – I didn’t even know I had a helmet with my name on it,” Romo said. “And here it’s Broxton, who’s 6-foot-6, 260. I figured if I started my swing when he went into his leg kick…”
Said Vogelsong: “You did take some gangster hacks, though.”
“Yes I did,” Romo replied, smiling.
Romo told Vogelsong that he had a picture of the two of them teary eyed after clinching the World Series.
“Dude, I was crying in the fifth inning,” Vogelsong said.
Affeldt on avoiding bizarre injuries, such as stabbing himself while separating frozen burger patties or hurting his knee when his son flings himself into it:
“I have three boys now so there’s a very, very high chance something will happen at home. But I’ll keep the knives away. I use the microwave more often to that things out and I wear two knee braces when I’m at home.
Affeldt said he admires the focus of Giants starting pitchers, describing Ryan Vogelsong’s “anger” and Matt Cain’s “lack of emotion” and Bumgarner’s “beaver face.”
Check out a freeze frame of Bumgarner when he’s releasing the ball and you’ll see what Affeldt means. Bumgarner sticks out his front teeth and bites his lower lip. It’s alternatively known by McCovey Chronicles contributors as the “FFFFFF face.”
About that Vogelsong angry face, he said he still feels like he has something to prove, and he’ll always feel that way because he “has to pitch with an edge.”
Vogelsong said his advantage isn’t his stuff but the fact he feels he can “out-concentrate” the next guy. “I feel there’s no one more focused on winning than me.”
The one time Romo didn’t have a quick answer during his Q&A session was when a high school girl asked him to be her prom date.
“It’s a good thing you got that two-year deal,” said Vogelsong, “because those limos are expensive, bro.”
The Giants estimated between 35,000 and 40,000 attended FanFest at AT&T Park, including the Trophy Pavilion at Pier 48. That’s similar to the attendance in previous years, and it’s a much more enjoyable experience now that the field is open to the fans.
Thoughts and prayers to the family of the woman struck and dragged by a cement truck at Third and King, in full view of fans who had lined up to get into the ballpark. What a tragic and awful thing. The Mercury News has the details here.
Time to pack up for my annual two-day drive to Scottsdale. Hope to see you down there!