2/13/2013 8:15 P.M. ET
Italian lineage paves road to Classic for LaTorre
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tyler LaTorre was always proud of his Italian heritage. But until recently, he didn't realize that it would broaden his baseball horizons.
LaTorre, 29, has never played above Triple-A during seven Minor League seasons in the Giants organization. But in one significant respect, he belongs with the likes of Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt, among others.
LaTorre, a non-roster invitee to big league camp, will represent Italy in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. A native of Santa Cruz, Calif., LaTorre has dual citizenship that allows him to play for the country of his roots.
LaTorre said that Tom Trebelhorn, manager of the Giants' Rookie-Level Salem-Keizer affiliate who coached for Italy in the 2009 Classic, advised him after that competition to examine his ancestry with the objective of playing in the 2013 event. LaTorre complied, doggedly spending two years searching for documents and obtaining birth and marriage certificates to detail his lineage.
LaTorre, a catcher who hit .278 in 42 games for Fresno last season, obtained his Italian citizenship in time to participate in last year's European Championship in Amsterdam, which Italy won.
That triumph helped LaTorre realize the depth of national pride among his teammates.
"Guys who had been living in the same house with their families for their whole lives were crying with happiness," LaTorre said.
To Sandoval, active winter no detriment
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The World Series-shortened offseason was even briefer for third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who spent part of the Venezuelan Winter League campaign playing for Magallanes. But it was a labor of love.
Sandoval took considerable pride in excelling for his hometown team, which he led to the league title. Sandoval, named the Most Valuable Player in October's four-game World Series sweep of Detroit, earned the same honor in the seven-game Venezuelan championship series by hitting .300 with three home runs and nine RBIs. Sandoval doubled twice and homered while going 3-for-5 as Magallanes defeated Lara in the Game 7 clincher, 11-9.
"I wanted to play because it was important for me, my family and my friends," Sandoval said on Wednesday.
Sandoval, who'll also compete for Venenzuela in the World Baseball Classic, insisted that he has received enough rest. His idle time included a trip to Las Vegas in December to serve as a judge in the Miss Universe pageant. Sandoval said that he delivered a simple response upon being asked to join the panel: "I'm in."
Sandoval could have been expected to watch replays of his three-homer extravaganza in Game 1 of the World Series. But he didn't.
"That's the past," he said.
Sandoval also sported a fresh tattoo of a panther on the outside of his right arm. He can keep the ink, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy wants Sandoval to shed an unspecified number of pounds before the club's April 1 opener against the rival Dodgers at Los Angeles.
"He's got to lose a little bit; he knows it," Bochy said.
Sandoval said that he remained somewhat bothered by the case of colitis that sent him to the hospital in mid-January. He suspected that unclean water caused his illness.
Follow-through key to Lincecum's smooth session
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum declared himself "ahead of where I was last year" after throwing a 10-minute bullpen session during Wednesday's opening workout for pitchers and catchers.
Lincecum began feeling out of sync early last Spring Training, due largely to his physical condition.
"Last year, coming into it, I was trying to lose the weight from the prior year," Lincecum said. "This year, I feel like I'm strong on my legs again."
Mechanically, Lincecum felt like anything but the starter who struggled to a 10-15 record and a 5.18 ERA last year.
"I felt like my front leg was actually stabilizing my motion when it comes to an end," said the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, who threw only fastballs and changeups. "I'm actually following through instead of falling out of it or wheeling off. My follow-through is a lot better and on target."
By sheer coincidence, Lincecum found himself throwing to catcher Buster Posey, who was rarely paired with the righty last season; the two have been rumored to be at odds. After Lincecum finished throwing, he and Posey met for the customary pitcher-catcher handshake. They spoke briefly, with Lincecum gesticulating as he mimicked a couple of throwing motions. As they parted, Lincecum patted Posey on his lower back with his left hand.
Manager Bruce Bochy insisted that Lincecum and Posey weren't ordered to work together. Echoed Lincecum, "There was no plan. I just kind of walked over and he was the only one left." Lincecum noted that throwing to Posey "kind of makes you feel like you're in a game-type atmosphere."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.