SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Just because Bruce Bochy doesn’t have his watchful eye on Pablo Sandoval while he’s off playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic doesn’t mean the portly Panda gets to slack on his diet and exercise regimen.
The San Francisco Giants are sending eight players to the international tournament and Bochy said he and his staff will keep tabs on the participants.
“We’ll keep in contact with Pablo and the rest of them,” Bochy said after the Giants’ 5-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday. “We mapped out a program for our guys, in particular Pablo that he’s got to do everyday.”
Bochy didn’t go into specifics about what the program entails, but it’s been clear since the start of camp that Sandoval’s weight is still a concern. The Giants’ skipper threatened to bench Sandoval for the Cactus League opener if he didn’t make an unspecified weight. When the powerful switch-hitting third baseman passed the test, it surprised Bochy.
“He was cutting it close a couple of times but he made it,” Bochy said.
Bochy echoed one writer’s sentiments that Sandoval can swing the bat well even when he’s on the heavier side, but said that less range on defense and potential injuries are the bigger concern.
Sandoval appeared to struggle at third base more often in 2012 than 2011 and also suffered a left hamstring strain when stretching for a ball at first base.
While Bochy is publicly expressing concern over Sandoval’s conditioning, he also made a point to praise the 26-year-old for the progress he’s already made this spring.
“He’s lost a lot of weight,” Bochy said. “I think he’s lost about 14 pounds already since the beginning [of camp].”
Sandoval left Scottsdale after hitting his first home run Saturday and will return to the Giants with a .500 spring average. Depending on how deep in the tournament Sandoval’s Venezuelan team advances, he may not be back in a Giants uniform for two weeks.
In the mean time, Bochy said he plans on watching as much WBC action as possible to watch his eight players and hitting coach Hensley ‘Bam Bam’ Meulens, who is managing the Dutch team.
“I watched Bam Bam’s game Saturday,” Bochy said. “We get here and have the games on. So during our meetings or down time, we’ll have those games on and we’ll be watching our players.”
While some managers might be concerned with losing that many players for an unknown period of time, Bochy said he’s got no problem with the WBC and pointed out a silver lining.
“We’re fine with it; we knew this was coming,” he said. “It’s going to force us to play some of these kids. They look good; they’re taking advantage of it. [Francisco] Peguero has had a good spring. [Juan] Perez has come on and is swinging the bat better. [Gary] Brown … All of them are going to get some playing time. The fact that we’re pretty much the same club we were last year makes it a little easier to lose these guys because they played together and they know each other.”
The Giants’ eight representatives are spread across the teams from the United States (Ryan Vogelsong and Jeremy Affeldt), Venezuela (Sandoval and Marco Scutaro), Puerto Rico (Angel Pagan), the Dominican Republic (Santiago Casilla), Mexico (Sergio Romo), and Italy (Tyler Latorre). That means Bochy may have a hard time knowing who to root for if Romo has to pitch against Sandoval or Pagan slides hard into Scutaro to try and break up a double play.
“I’ll be pulling for our players to do well and pulling for the U.S. to do really well,” Bochy said diplomatically.
While Bochy isn’t complaining about his dwindling spring roster, he’s not exactly worry-free when it comes to the WBC.
“The bigger concern is with the pitchers,” he said. “Injuries, getting enough work for the relievers and things like that. [Javier] Lopez, I think the last time he went, he didn’t throw very much so that made it a little tougher for him coming back. So hopefully they stay in somewhat of a regular routine. But it’s hard when you’re playing games. You don’t say ‘you got this inning that night’ because they’re playing to win every game.”
At least with Buster Posey declining an invitation to play for the American team, Bochy has one less thing to worry about.