BOSTON — It sounds as though Pablo Sandoval will return to the Red Sox a changed man.
The third baseman appeared in just three games for Boston in 2016 before going down for the season after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. It was another disappointment from Sandoval, who had a .245 average and just 47 RBIs in his first season with the Red Sox in 2015, but president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday at Fenway Park that Kung Fu Panda is back in good shape.
“He should be proud of himself and how he’s handled the time since he’s left from this club,” Dombrowski said. “He has, if you saw him, … you can see he’s appreciably gotten himself in better shape. He’s worked very hard down for us in Fort Myers, (Fla.). He’s been down there every day. He’s been a model with the young kids. Some of the people told (general manager) Mike Hazen that he’s treated the younger kids better than anybody they’ve ever had down there from a major league perspective, teaching them lessons, buying them food.”
Not only will Sandoval be fully healthy come February, but he also wanted to come back earlier. Manager John Farrell mentioned in September that the 30-year-old could have played in the postseason if there was an emergency, but Sandoval actually made that his goal.
“He’s worked physically, so I anticipate — in fact, his goal was to be ready, physically, to play in the ALCS,” Dombrowski said. “I don’t know that that would’ve happened, because our other people had been here all year, but from a health perspective, he’s really right there, so I think he’ll be healthy next year.”
There certainly will be another third base competition in the spring with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt in the picture, but Dombrowski has confidence that Sandoval will have a shot.
“There’s other guys that I’m sure say they should be the third baseman,” Dombrowski said. “It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out. But he’s been a proven big league performer. If he’s healthy and ready to go, then he has a chance to be a good performer for us. I know people say, ‘Well … ‘ but the same thing was said about Hanley (Ramirez) last year at the same time. Hanley worked very hard. That’s why there’s still a long haul ahead for him, but I think that Pablo will be ready to play and how does he compete versus Travis and Brock and everybody else.”
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images