Boston Red Sox: Pablo Sandoval With Something to Prove in Spring Training

After missing most of 2016, Pablo Sandoval is working tirelessly to reclaim his role at third baseman. However, the Boston Red Sox are cautious to simply hand him the job.

Three seasons into his five-year contract with the Boston Red Sox, Pablo Sandoval is making an effort to reclaim third base. Yet, the Panda is not guaranteed the full-time third baseman role when Opening Day roles around. Even with Yoan Moncada and Travis Shaw out of the picture, general manager John Farrell expects Sandoval to prove himself before deciding who will man the hot corner in 2017.

“Pablo has done a great job of getting himself in better shape,” Farrell said (per mlb.com). “But what he does on the field and if he can get back to previous levels before signing here as a free agent, that’s what we’re hopeful of. But it’s a spot to be in competition for.”

In the years prior to signing with the Red Sox, Sandoval made his mark during his seven seasons with the San Francisco Giants. With a pair of All-Star appearances, Sandoval batted .294 and hit 106 home runs for the Giants.

His success in San Francisco played a major role in the Giants’ trio of World Series championships from 2010-2014. In particular, Sandoval began the 2012 World Series with three home runs in Game 1 against the Detroit Tigers. He batted .500 over four games with four RBIs and three runs to become the World Series MVP.

His success continued during his final two seasons with the Giants. Batting .279 with 16 homers, Sandoval made the final out of the 2014 World Series. As it turned out, it was the last played he made with the Giants. However, when the Red Sox signed him on a five-year, $70 million deal in 2014, they received a much different Sandoval.

After building the reputation of a perpetual .260-plus batter, Sandoval grew “complacent” during his first two seasons in Boston. The Panda finished 2015 with a career-low batting average, sub-100 RBIs and only 10 home runs. As Shaw gradually overtook third base, a shoulder injury sidelined Sandoval after just three games played last season. As the Panda’s replacement went on to hit 16 home runs and drive in 71 runs in 2016, no one was more aware of Sandoval’s struggles than Farrell.

“No one’s going to say the first two years of Pablo’s tenure in Boston have gone well,” Farrell said (per nesn.com). “That’s obvious…Pablo’s mindset is almost a redemption approach. It feels like he’s got to make it up to his teammates and the fans of Boston here.”

Heat of Competition

Standing in his way of a clear path to reclaiming third base are Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge. While Shaw spent 104 games at third base last season, Holt and Rutledge played at least 12 games in the hot corner. Both in their fifth year in the major leagues, Farrell believes either can handle the responsibilities of third, if they outshine Sandoval in Spring Training.

“If he gets back to that level — and let’s face it, he’s going to have to go out and earn the job back, because Brock Holt is here, we did go out and pick up Josh Rutledge, who was a quality utility bat prior to the injury last year,” Farrell said (per nesn.com). “We’ll see what transpires the rest of the offseason.”

However, Sandoval appears to be doing everything right thus far. He showed up early to Spring Training 20 pounds lighter and his teammates noted his progress.

“He worked his tail off,” said Jackie Bradley Jr. (per cbssports.com). “you can definitely tell he’s worked hard…. He’s able to impact the game. We have faith that he’s going to do very well.”

Furthermore, this is not the first struggling player to cross Farrell’s path and his track record helps Sandoval’s chances. In 2013, he guided John Lackey back to ace-like form, which resulted in a 2013 World Series championship. Most recently, he helped Hanley Ramirez bounce back to an incredible season in 2016.

“I know this,” said Farrell (per mlb.com). “He’s driven, he’s highly motivated and he hasn’t lost his skills. At least the ingredients are there for him to be a productive player again.”

The Red Sox understand his value and desire for him to produce in the same way he did in San Francisco. The only question is: will he?

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