SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Few players in baseball have a greater love of celebratory kicks and kidney punches than Pablo Sandoval, but in recent years, the Panda's charge to the joyous dog pile has too often started in the dugout, not on the field.
Minutes before he was named World Series MVP in 2012, Sandoval was pulled for defensive replacement Joaquin Arias. When the 27th out of Matt Cain's perfect game was hit toward the hot corner, it was Arias, not Sandoval, who was waiting. Sandoval completed just 68 of 101 starts that season, and in 2013 he went the distance at third in just 97 of 137 starts.
After the first full-squad workout of the spring, manager Bruce Bochy said this is one trend he would like to end.
"Hopefully we're not taking him out," Bochy said. "That's not the plan right now. The plan is to leave him out there. He's a good third baseman when he's in this kind of shape."
Sandoval, according to team sources, checked in at 250 pounds this week, a drop of around 30 pounds from his 2013 high. It's not a straight transaction either; Sandoval has put on a significant amount of muscle while finding the quickness he had in his best seasons. After Sandoval charged a bunt during a drill Wednesday and made a strong throw to first, Bochy walked toward the field and pointed at the slugger.
"Atta boy, Pablo!" he yelled.
Later, Bochy said Sandoval "looks good, he looks really good."
"You see that he has more quickness in that first step," Bochy continued. "There's a significant difference in these drills."
As Sandoval took the field for the first time this spring, his brother, Michael, and trainer, Rafael Alvarez, watched closely. Alvarez worked with Sandoval throughout the winter and will travel with him this season.
"I want more (weight loss)," Sandoval said, smiling.
When it was pointed out that he now has a wellness entourage, including another brother, Luis, who is his personal chef, Sandoval nodded. "I don't have a thing to complain about," he said.
The Giants have no issues through the first few days in the desert. When Sandoval dropped the weight, he knew he would have to be more patient at the plate because his body would be moving more quickly, so he started hitting earlier than ever before, taking to the cage on Nov. 15.
Sandoval's bat speed kept him in the majors even when he was sorely out of shape, but it's the new foot speed and quickness that will keep him on the field longer this season. Sandoval said he knows it's a right that he didn't earn last year.
"I didn't take it personally," he said. "I think (Bochy) needed more defense at the time. I was out of shape."
Sandoval has changed physically and mentally. He's hoping his late-innings role changes, too.
"I'm preparing in my mind to play nine innings," he said. "For 162 games."
"I think he's comfortable playing there occasionally," Bochy said. "For the most part, he's going to be in the outfield, but if we think we need to give Belt a couple of days to make adjustments, we'll (put Morse at first)."
Morse has made 100 career starts at first base.
"He was launching them pretty good, wasn't he?" Bochy said.
Pence will hit with Sandoval, Scutaro and Buster Posey this spring. The second group on Wednesday featured Morse, Brandon Crawford and Angel Pagan, all of whom have beards and long locks.
"We're trying to get a Head and Shoulders commercial," Pagan said.