San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval—not a likely candidate to ever grace the cover of Men’s Health magazine—has told team officials he has changed his mind about his offseason workout program.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Sandoval told the team he is staying in Venezuela this offseason rather than working out at the club’s facility in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“… [H]e can do what he wants and stay out there,” Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner said. “It’s fine. I don’t care where he’s at as long as he’s taking care of himself and gets back into shape.”
Conditioning has been a career-long issue for the Kung Fu Panda, who became a fan favorite as a rookie in 2008 when he came up to the big leagues and hit .345 in 154 plate appearances and followed that up with a .330 mark and 25 homers in his first full season in 2009.
Since then, the act has worn thin at times with his inconsistent play and health problems. Sandoval’s production fell to .268 and 13 homers in 2010, he missed 45 games with various ailments in 2011 while hitting .315 with 23 homers, he was out 54 games in 2012 and hit just 12 homers while posting a .283 average and last season hit .278/.341/.417 with 14 homers and 79 RBI in 141 games.
But along the way he also joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players to hit three homers in a World Series game when he blasted three off Justin Verlander (twice) and Al Albuquerque of the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the 2012 Fall Classic en route to winning World Series MVP honors.
Panda was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012, but is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. He’s under contract for $8.25 million next season.
Free agency is at the heart of Sandoval’s decision to stay in Venezuela this winter. He’d love nothing more than to be able to show prospective suitors that he is capable of maintaining his conditioning without the need for the club to supervise him.
“He wants to demonstrate to the team that he is more mature and he has learned from everything bad that was happening in his career,” said Sandoval’s brother, Michael. “I do see a different Pablo. He’s really focused on his career and wants to demonstrate his potential.”
Sandoval is working with Rafael Alvarez, who helped long-time big-leaguer Bobby Abreu through a basically injury-free 17-year career. From his first full season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1998 through his last as a full-time player with the Los Angeles Angels in 2011, Abreu played less than 150 games in a season just once and never had fewer than 585 plate appearances.
And, as the old saying goes, there’s something to be said for just showing up.
By contrast, the 27-year-old Sandoval has played more than 150 games just twice in five full seasons.
Sandoval missed time with a broken hamate bone in his wrist—hardly an injury associated with conditioning. However, there is a school of thought that his frequent issues with hamstring injuries, as well as the foot injury he dealt with last season, could be caused in part by him being, well, a less than perfect athletic specimen.
The Giants may be annoyed by Sandoval’s choice, but it is less so than they would have been in the past.
“He’s on the last year of a contract and that either means stepping up for this organization and doing enough to make us want to keep him here or get himself ready for free agency and move on,” general manager Brian Sabean said in September. “It’s in his court now. We’ve done everything we could.”
We’ll know come February whether he spends his offseason time more with the elliptical or the eclairs.