Pablo Sandoval once was a starting third baseman on a World Series championship team, but to start the 2016 season, he didn't even have a spot in Boston's Opening Day lineup. After a disappointing maiden voyage in Boston, the "Kung Fu Panda" lost his starting gig at the hot corner to Travis Shaw and only received one start over the first week of the season. Things only got worse from there, as a major shoulder strain was discovered in May, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. Thankfully, the 30-year-old is expected to be fully healthy for spring training, and now his top two competitors at third base are gone: Shaw was traded to the Brewers in December and Yoan Moncada was dealt to the White Sox not long after. Brock Holt is still in the mix for playing time at third, but if Sandoval can get back into shape and return to anywhere near his previous form, he should see plenty of at-bats this season. There are worse ways to use a late-round flier.
Sandoval will not participate in the World Baseball Classic for Team Venezuela, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. Sandoval had been on Venezuela's provisional roster for the WBC and was hoping to participate in the tournament for a second time, but the Red Sox exercised their right to bar him from playing. The third baseman is coming off shoulder surgery and Boston withheld medical clearance. So, Sandoval will remain in spring training, where he can focus on the task of winning the starting third base job. Earlier this week, manager John Farrell said the job won't be handed to Sandoval, who will have competition from Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge.
Sandoval won't be handed the starting third base job this spring, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. Boston manager John Farrell mentioned Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge as players who will compete with Sandoval, but the manager is pleased with Sandoval's attitude entering training camp. The 30-year-old third baseman re-dedicated himself during the past year, which ended early in April due to a shoulder injury. He's in better shape and motivated to win back the job he lost to Travis Shaw in spring training last year. Now with Shaw and prospect Yoan Moncada gone, there's a clear path the job for Sandoval, whose pedigree as a hitter is better than either Holt or Rutledge.
Sandoval checked into Boston's training camp in Fort Myers (Fla.) on Thursday well ahead of the Feb. 17 reporting date, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. Sandoval had posted images of himself on Instagram during the offseason, showing off what appeared to be a slimmer physique. Thursday was the first time reporters got eyes on him in real life, and he appears to be somewhere between 25-30 pounds lighter than last season. He's taken a lot of heat for his weight since signing with Boston in 2015, but if he were producing, nobody would care. Prior to the shoulder injury that cost Sandoval all but three games in 2016, he had a .658 OPS in 2015. If that doesn't improve, he's not going to help offset the loss of David Ortiz in this lineup.
Sandoval has spent the offseason working out at Boston's facilities in Fort Myers and is noticeably in better shape, Jen McCaffrey of MassLive reports. Sandoval recently posted some Instagram videos as proof of the work he's been putting in, performing various training activities from lifting weights, lunges and running a treadmill. The two-time All Star and owner of three World Series rings admitted to being complacent after signing a five-year deal with Boston, but used the downtime created by his season-ending shoulder surgery to take stock of his career. He's motivated to be a better on-field teammate and will get that chance as Boston's putative starter at third base in 2017.
Sandoval becomes the leading candidate to be Boston's starting third baseman after the organization's recent acquisitions. Manager John Farrell said Sandoval will have to earn the job, but it's his to lose after the club traded Travis Shaw and Yoan Moncada in separate deals last week. The manager also has Brock Holt on hand for some duty at third base, but he's not a realistic full-time option at the position. Sandoval will have much to prove in 2017, the third season of a five-year deal the Red Sox are beginning to regret. There are a few prospects in the pipeline, but at best, none are closer than two years away.