MLB: Giants slugger Sandoval content with his size
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Baseball Writer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pablo Sandoval sure is taking a lot of flak for his weight struggles these days. Not that it’s obvious talking to him. He seems completely unfazed and focused on his performance on the field.
No matter the number on the scale — he prefers not to share his weight — San Francisco’s free-swinging slugger insists he is strong, agile on defense and moving well when running the bases.
That showed Thursday when he sprinted out a double against Seattle. So, what’s the big deal about how big he is?
“I feel great. I feel everything has gone well and I feel the speed is there and the movement,” Sandoval said. “I’m just trying to maintain my diet and exercise. Sometimes it’s hard.”
Giants athletic trainer Dave Groeschner said Sandoval arrived in spring camp at 262 pounds, some 15 pounds lighter than his 2009 playing weight. And Sandoval says he has lost at least five pounds since then, though he still appears plenty hefty. The Giants have expressed concern at times — yet Sandoval wants to show everybody with his performance this season that he is perfectly healthy despite his girth.
He just missed an All-Star nod last year in his first full major league season. This winter, the team put him on a strict diet and exercise regimen dubbed “Operation Panda,” an intense shape-up program that Sandoval started in earnest before heading home to Venezuela for a stint in winter ball. He weighed his portions and logged his workouts. He turned down his former staples of pizza and McDonald’s in favor of fruit plates and turkey sandwiches on wheat bread. He even passed on his mother Amelia’s famous lasagna save for special occasions.
“He’s been working his tail off,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s lost weight since he’s been here. He’s here early doing his conditioning. We’d rather have him do it here and get after it early so the last 10 days we’re spending on baseball.”
Bochy said Sandoval was down to 253 pounds, but he doesn’t plan to provide daily updates on his No. 3 hitter’s weight.
Sandoval’s fun-loving personality has always been as mighty as his powerful swing, something he credits for part of his success. He’s always enjoying himself on the diamond and it’s infectious. His teammates love him — and so do some opponents.
Countryman and Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano doesn’t understand all the fuss over Sandoval’s size. Zambrano took his turn the other day weighing in on the matter.
Zambrano came to Sandoval’s defense after giving up a grand slam Wednesday to the guy his teammates call “Kung Fu Panda.” These two grew up together in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela.
“It’s up to him. If he feels comfortable with that weight, it’s good for him. If he doesn’t feel comfortable and he thinks he needs to lose weight, it’s good for him, too,” Zambrano said. “Man, there are a lot of guys who played this game who were big. Mo Vaughn was one of these guys. (Andres) Galarraga used to be big, no? Cecil Fielder, you know? Prince Fielder. (Sandoval) can hit. It doesn’t matter how big you are. It’s a fact to stay in the big leagues, you have to do the job, and he’s done that. You have to give him more credit for the ability he has.”
The 23-year-old Sandoval is someone the Giants consider a big part of the franchise’s future. That’s why they’re making such an effort with him to establish lifelong healthy habits. Sandoval batted .330 with 25 home runs and 90 RBIs last year in 153 games and had a .556 slugging percentage. He also struck out 83 times to 52 walks and earned a reputation for swinging at anything in sight.
New hitting coach Hensley Meulens is working to get Sandoval to be more selective at the plate.
Through his first seven spring games, Sandoval was hitting .300 with a home run, eight RBIs, three doubles and two runs scored.
As long as Sandoval is doing his share, two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum figures everybody should mind their own business when it comes to his body.
“I think looks can be deceiving. Look at me. Everyone says, ’170, 160 pounds, he can’t do that.’ Who’s to say so?” said the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Giants ace. “You look at a guy like Pablo and say he can’t do the stuff that he does. You should see the stuff he’s able to do. He’s ambidextrous, he can do things with both feet with a soccer ball. He’s extremely talented. Don’t judge a book by the cover. He’s as good as he feels. I’m not saying give him a break. Everyone’s going to have their opinions. The only one that matters is Pablo’s — and the trainer’s.”