SAN FRANCISCO -- Ingredients in the recipe for Pablo Sandoval's offseason include celebrities (Barry Bonds and former decathlete Dan O'Brien), abstinence (no chips or soda pop) and, of course, plenty of exercise (even sprints).When the regular season arrives, Sandoval will fold in a personal chef to make sure he eats right when the Giants are at home. Hold the carbs, please. "I want to save my career," Sandoval said on Friday. Sandoval obviously has remained serious about shedding the excess weight that hampered him last year, when his batting average dwindled to .268 from .330 in 2009. His home-run total dropped from 25 to 13 while his RBI output fell from 90 to 63. Once considered indispensable, Sandoval endured his final indignity in the postseason, when he couldn't move quickly enough to cover third base in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against Philadelphia. Except for a designated-hitter stint in Game 3 of the World Series, Sandoval did not start another postseason game. The offseason began with general manager Brian Sabean issuing an ultimatum to Sandoval: Get in shape, or get out -- to Triple-A Fresno, that is. Sandoval listened. "I already knew in the postseason that I had to change my body, I had to change my mind and I had to change my approach," said Sandoval, who intends to keep working out during the season. "I say thank you to the Giants, because they made me grow up." Sandoval wouldn't divulge his current weight, but he appeared to be lighter than his 262-pound listing on the Giants' current 40-man roster.
"I don't want to say, but I lost a lot," he said. "Wait until Feb. 19 when the scale is there."
He has adopted the dining habits followed by world-class athletes and weight-control zealots, eating five meals per day -- featuring vegetables and protein, with none being particularly heavy."I feel like I'm using Andres Torres' body right now," Sandoval said, referring to the sleek Giants center fielder. Training at Triple Threat Performance in Tempe, Ariz., enabled Sandoval to work with O'Brien three days per week, running in the morning and lifting weights in the afternoon. The Olympic gold medal winner has led Sandoval up the peak near Arizona State University that's emblazoned with the "A" near the top. Sandoval freely admitted that he has left the contents of his stomach in that vicinity several times. "If you quit, you're a loser," Sandoval said, relating one of O'Brien's exhortations. "That's what he told me every day." Sandoval also has worked with Greg Oliver, one of Bonds' trainers when the all-time home run leader was with the Giants. Oliver put Sandoval in touch with Bonds, who offered simple hitting advice: Look for a pitch that you could hit as if you were throwing a punch. That prompts Sandoval to use his hands more. Though Sandoval has been working on his defense at the Giants' Minor League complex with Jose Alguacil, the organization's roving infield instructor, he has hit less this offseason than ever. The switch-hitter went an unprecedented two months without swinging a bat. Now Sandoval's typical eagerness to take his cuts has returned.
"I feel like everything's fresh," he said.His teammates, gathered for Saturday's FanFest at AT&T Park, already have noticed. "Pablo had a rough time last year," right-hander Matt Cain said. "We all have our rough times. That's part of baseball. You find a way to do well, then you hit a wall and you have to find a way to get through it. He's done a great job of taking on that challenge. He looks great now. He's feeling excited. You can see the energy that he's bringing back. He looks like the Pablo that we saw a couple of years back." That's the mindset Sandoval intends to maintain. "I have to be the same Pablo Sandoval that got called up to the big leagues, working hard, coming from nowhere to do the things I can do," he said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.