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Slimmed down Sandoval: 'I grew up as a person, as a human being'

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Losing weight during the offseason is nothing new to Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who has battled conditioning issues pretty much his entire career. He reportedly shed 42 lbs. this offseason and showed off that weight loss when he reported to spring training on Saturday:

Sandoval, 27, told reporters that several of his teammates challenged him to take responsibility for his weight and his career following the team's disappointing 2013 campaign. From Andy Baggarly of CSN Bay Area:

“People said it, my teammates said it,” Sandoval said. “Buster was one of those guys, Hunter, Cain. I put in my mind the great season in 2011. I can be that player again.”

...

“I feel blessed that a former MVP (Posey) told me that, that Hunter told me that,” Sandoval said. “I have to take it seriously because it's not one person telling me. It's all of my teammates telling me what kind of player I am.”

...

“I'm happy not for the weight -- for myself,” Sandoval said. “I put in my mind all the bad things people say I can't do, all the bad comments in the media. I put it all in my mind. I can do all the things people say they can't trust (me to do).”

Obviously Sandoval had to put the work in on his own, but give credit to Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Matt Cain for stepping up and taking on leadership roles. They are three of the team's four highest paid players and are all signed through 2017. They're the guys who should be doing stuff like this.

Sandoval hit 14 home runs with a 119 OPS+ last season, very good output but certainly not what he is fully capable of doing. From 2009-12, he averaged a 129 OPS+ and was twice over a 140 OPS+. The one they call Kung Fu Panda is scheduled to hit free agency after the season and given his age, he could be in line for a massive contract with a strong season.

“I don't care about the contract,” Sandoval said. “I care about my team. I care about this year, to try to win a championship. … I'm going to be open. I'm not going to say no. But I want to concentrate on getting ready for the season.”

This is, without question, the biggest year of Sandoval's relatively young career. The Giants are looking to rebound from a third place finish and he is an important cog as a middle of the order bat. I know he said he doesn't care about his impending free agency, but it's hard to believe it's not in the back of Sandoval's mind. Losing all that weight and coming to camp in shape is a great start to his 2014 season.

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