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Giants manager Gabe Kapler defends Pablo Sandoval after unflattering picture draws mockery

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Pablo Sandoval has never been known for being of slender physique. The San Francisco Giants infielder rose to prominence with the nickname “Panda” and clocks in at 5-foot-10, 268 pounds on his official MLB page.

But the scrutiny reached another level when a recent photo of Sandoval taking grounders at third base started making the internet rounds.

Predictably, the internet was its usual self when reacting to that photo of Sandoval appearing to carry extra weight upon returning from the coronavirus shutdown and just a few weeks before MLB’s revived season is scheduled to begin. Between the standard jokes and mean-spirited barbs was the question of whether the Giants should be concerned/frustrated with their veteran infielder.

According to Giants manager Gabe Kapler, the answer is, basically, only if that weight gets in the way of his job.

From MLB.com’s Maria Guardado:

“I think what we're always looking for is, ‘Is Pablo able to do the things necessary for him to be a good baseball player?’” Kapler said Sunday. “I think it's understandable that in today's world we focus on weight. I get it. In this particular case, what we've all noticed about Pablo is that the ball is jumping off his bat, and his throws have nice carry. Obviously, we've had concerns about whether he was going to be ready [after Tommy John surgery] and at what point he was going to be ready to play third base and first base. He's demonstrated that he's healthy. That's the most important thing.”

Kapler has a point there. First and third base are much more about reaction time than range on the field, and no one is expecting Sandoval to rack up the stolen bases or go first to third on a single.

Still, this isn’t the first time Sandoval’s weight fluctuations has been a topic of discussion. His ill-fated tenure with the Boston Red Sox featured frequent concerns about his weight. His breakout year back in 2011 was preceded by noticeable weight loss. He’s been encouraged to shed weight in the past by some of his current Giants teammates. And the pandemic wreaked havoc with many athletes’ ability to properly train and work with their team.

The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly, who tweeted the photo of Sandoval, said in a Twitter thread he regretted posting the photo on a personal level because of the scrutiny Sandoval has long faced, but felt it was his journalistic duty as one of the few reporters on the scene at Oracle Park whose job was to objectively cover the Giants.

San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval walks on the field during a baseball practice in San Francisco, Sunday, July 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Pablo Sandoval's weight has again reached the headlines. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Kapler expressed sympathy for what Sandoval is dealing with, from the Associated Press:

'Already in this short period of time he's demonstrated it. I have a lot of empathy for Pablo and what it must be like to be dealing with this kind of scrutiny, and I wouldn't wish it on anybody.''

The 33-year-old Sandoval is in Giants camp as a non-roster invitee after hitting .268/.313/.507 in 108 games last season. If the weight really is a problem, Sandoval is the only one who will really pay for it.

For now, the Giants are apparently planning as if he’ll be staying. And yes, possibly playing some DH:

“Look, he's not going to bat leadoff for us,” Kapler said. “The expectation with Pablo Sandoval is he slugs. He drives the baseball. He's a good DH candidate for us. He's got nice, soft hands, and all of those things are present in camp. Those are the things that we're going to be focusing on.”

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