Big League Stew

Spring Headlines: Pablo Sandoval weight concerns resurface; No arbitration hearings in MLB

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(USA Today)

Regardless of how well he's playing or how healthy he appears to be at a given time, Pablo Sandoval's weight issues will always be a source of concern for the San Francisco Giants. Right now, though, it sounds like they're well past concerned and are legitimately unhappy with his weight — listed at 262 — and overall conditioning as he enters training camp.

Well, that's one side of the story at least. Here's the other side from Sandoval and close friend Marco Scutaro, courtesy of the Contra Costa Times' Alex Pavlovic:

The Giants intend to put third baseman Pablo Sandoval through another round of extra conditioning this spring, and Sandoval won't fight it. But Saturday, he insisted he is in baseball shape.

"Who cares what other people say?" Sandoval said. "I'm here to do my job. I'll keep doing my job."

It's hard to argue with that after Sandoval, at a similar weight, was named MVP of the World Series. He followed that up with a strong offseason, winning MVP honors in the Venezuelan League's championship series.

"If he's not in baseball shape, who is?" second baseman Marco Scutaro said. "He just finished playing like a week ago. He's good. He's fine."

I believe this is the first time we've heard a Giants teammate speaks out in defense of Sandoval's conditioning. Granted, it's a fellow countryman and good friend, but this is indeed shaping up to be a story. A very interesting one.

Mike Napoli ramps up activity: In one of the offseason's more drawn out storylines, the Boston Red Sox would agree to a three-year, $39 million deal with free agent catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli in December, only to leave us hanging for several more weeks while an undisclosed snag was ironed out.

As it turns out, Napoli had been diagnosed with a condition known as avascular necrosis — the death of bones due to a lack of blood supply — in both of his hips. This led to Boston adjusting his contract to a one-year deal, and left all of us with questions about Napoli's long-term future in baseball.

For now, everything seems to be going well. Napoli is feeling no symptoms stemming from the condition, and based on the positive MRI results revealed Saturday, he has been cleared to ramp up his baseball activities in preparation for the upcoming season.

From MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince:

Napoli received the results of the MRI he took this week as part of his spring physical, and told reporters that nothing had changed with his hip condition.

"That's a good thing," Napoli said. "The medicine is working and the doctors were happy with the MRI. I'm going to be able to move forward."

Moving forward, in this instance, means Napoli immediately beginning to take ground balls from his knees at first base and increasing his running program on the treadmill.

"I'm excited," Napoli said. "It's a fun time."

According to general manager Ben Cherington, Napoli, along with David Ortiz (achilles tendon), will be eased into Grapefruit League action, but both should be a full-go come Opening Day.

MLB avoids arbitration with everybody: With Clayton Richard agreeing to a one-year, $5.24 million deal with the San Diego Padres on Saturday, a little history has been made in Major League Baseball. For the first time since the arbitration process was instituted just prior to the 1974 season, there will be no cases heard by an arbitrator.

In fact, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, there had never been a season with fewer than three cases reaching a hearing. And that’s throwing out the 1976 and 1977 seasons, because arbitration cases in those years were suspended.

Reds won’t divluge plan for Aroldis Chapman: According to pitching coach Bryan Price, the Reds do have a plan in place to keep Aroldis Chapman’s workload within reason as he transitions from closer to the starting rotation. What that plan is, however, will remain a mystery to the rest of us, because the Reds don’t want it to become a distraction like the Washington Nationals went through with Stephen Strasburg all last season.

Here's Price's quote from MLB.com:

"There is a pretty good understanding of what will be necessary to keep his innings at an area that we're comfortable with, should he be a starter throughout the course of the season," Price said. "That being said, I think if I've learned anything, I've learned it's better to keep that stuff to ourselves. You just set the table for a little too much speculation and Q&A that I would not be comfortable going through."

While I certainly understand where Price is coming from with this quote, I'm not sure keeping the plan under wraps will keep the media from asking questions. In fact, it will probably only lead to more speculation, and when the time comes to shut Chapman down or adjust his role, more second guessing.

At least when you throw a number out there you have something to stand by. But hey, maybe the Reds are on to something here and maybe it will work out better than I'm anticipating.

Clayton Kershaw named Opening Day starter: It was a foregone conclusion all along, but Los Angeles Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly made it official on Saturday. Clayton Kershaw will make his third straight Opening Day start when the Dodgers host the San Francisco Giants on April 1. Again, this isn't really breaking news, but it is somewhat interesting to note this will be the second time Kershaw has faced the Giants in their opener following a World Series championship.

In 2011, Kershaw was the winner, tossing seven innings of shutout baseball and striking out nine in LA's 3-1 victory. That, of course, would be the launching point of his Cy Young season.

Photo of the Day: With the Chicago Cubs annual bunting tournament starting on Saturday, I guess there's no better person than Theo Epstein to get the festivities underway.

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(@PWSullivan)

To update the brackets, Epstein would defeat general manager Jed Hoyer in round one before dropping his second round matchup to Director of Baseball Operations Scott Harris.

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