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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Pablo Sandoval stayed committed to his offseason plan to lose weight. And the plan didn’t end when he stepped on a scale as part of his physical on Tuesday.
The Giants’ third baseman said he would travel with an entourage this season, but they’ll steer him to the gym instead of the club. The traveling party will include Rafael Alvarez, the trainer who worked with Sandoval in Venezuela this winter and was employed by big leaguer Bobby Abreu for more than a decade.
Sandoval’s brothers will travel with him as well, including Luis, a culinary school graduate who prepares all his meals, and Michael, a former minor leaguer who serves as one of his co-agents.
So for those fans expecting another midsummer balloon ride, Sandoval has a message for you: This time it’ll be different.
For now, the difference is plain enough. By all accounts, especially from those whose opinions matter most, Sandoval has more bat speed, more first-step quickness and more energy than he did last season, when his weight neared 290 pounds before he started to diet in August.
According to Alex Pavlovic of Bay Area News Group, Sandoval weighed in Tuesday at roughly 250 pounds. It’s estimated he lost around 30 pounds over the winter – and gained a step as a result.
“He looked good – real good,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s moving quicker. The first-step quickness, there’s a significant difference, I think.”
Hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens told our Ahmed Fareed that Sandoval’s bat speed from the right side is the best he’s witnessed in years.
Bochy said if Sandoval can maintain his conditioning, he wouldn’t look to sub out the third baseman for late-inning defense.
“He’s a good third baseman when he’s in the type of shape he’s in now,” Bochy said. “So I wouldn’t see him coming out of the game, no.”
In past seasons, the Giants used playing time as motivation, telling Sandoval that they wouldn’t let him play the late innings with a lead until he got his weight below certain target numbers. Bochy doesn’t see a need for that now. And that’s good timing, since it might free up Joaquin Arias to sub for Marco Scutaro, if it looks like defense will be an issue for the 38-year-old second baseman again.
Did Sandoval take it personally in the past when he would get tapped on the shoulder in the seventh inning?
“No, I don’t take it personally,” Sandoval said. “He needed more defense at the time and I was out of shape. It was part of the game.”
And how does he feel now?
“I feel a lot quicker, especially my bat speed,” said Sandoval, explaining how he feels more confident to let the ball travel deeper in the zone. “I’ve been working on explosion and speed. I tried to maintain those things. Then after that I worked on hitting and getting my timing.
“I want to be ready for the whole game. Great defense, I think it is going to help the team win games.”