Stew lieutenant David Brown is covering Arizona during spring training. This postcard might look like it comes from the Far East, but it's really the gift shop at Scottsdale Stadium, where the bear of the moment is Panda.
Greetings, bamboo chewers!
They can't keep the shelves stocked with li'l Pandas here, I tell ya'. Pablo Sandoval(notes) not only produces sales for jersey, stuffed toys and trinkets, he comes through on the field, too. But Panda is not perfect. The bear of a man has flaws. Helping to reduce those flaws is new hitting coach Hensley Meulens.
First, to review the good, even great: Sandoval has a .333 career batting average and a .924 career OPS through 777 plate appearances in the majors. For a free swinger, he doesn't strike out that much.
"He's amazing, what he does," Meulens said. "You can't teach what he does. He's very aggressive from both sides of the plate and he reaches a lot of pitches that are not in the strike zone and he hits them hard. It’s a rare combination of things."
Sandoval is a bit on the hefty side, coming in about 12 pounds over his desired goal of 250 pounds. Despite being heavy and new to third base, Sandoval was nearly average on defensive in '09. Losing some weight would help his range. So would moving to first base.
Meulens can't control Panda's pounds but he can encourage him to be more selective.
"We're not the ones trying to change anything with Pablo," Meulens said. "He wants to make sure he gets better pitches to hit early in the count and not be so wild."
"I don't think you can protect him because he swings at everything," said Meulens, who then told two stories about Sandoval being undisciplined at the plate. First, he lunged at a 3-0 pitch in the first inning and then he swung at another after Aaron Rowand(notes) nearly had second base stolen.
Meulens thinks he's getting through to Sandoval, who in '09 had 52 walks in 633 plate appearances.
"That's what we're trying to get him to understand," Meulens said. "There are situations where you don't have to be so aggressive. Sometimes they want to walk you; you've got to take your walk."
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Dave's tour of spring training in Arizona continues. Follow him on Twitter — @answerdave.