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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Pablo Sandoval might have trimmed down in Venezuela this winter. But on the day that pitchers and catchers reported, it was Hector Sanchez who grabbed the first “best shape of my life” story of the spring.
Sanchez said he lost 20 pounds while working with one of the Giants’ minor league strength coaches over the winter. He also feels none of the shoulder discomfort that set him back last spring and lingered almost to the All-Star break.
And he acknowledged that he was embarrassed last year, when he grew so fatigued in the late innings of an August game at Miami that he could barely receive pitches.
“I feel my energy is at a different level because I prepared for this,” Sanchez said. “What happened last year, I thought about it a lot. Last year was a learning season. It’s a long season and I’ve got to be ready till the end.”
The Giants sent that message to Sanchez last spring, and they were rather pointed about it. It wasn’t just Sandoval’s lack of conditioning that bothered them a year ago at this time.
An improved Sanchez would be a major boost for the Giants, and not just because he’s the only other catcher besides Buster Posey on the 40-man roster. He’s a 24-year-old switch-hitter who isn’t overmatched by premium fastballs. His defense, especially an issue with passed balls, should improve with better stamina. He still has a lot of upside.
“When these guys come in heavy, they spend most of the spring getting it under control,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “So now the focus can be on the baseball. It’s nice to see Hector take this step and show some ownership.”
Two pitchers didn’t report on time, including top setup man Santiago Casilla. He is still awaiting his visa as is left-hander Jose De Paula. In the meantime, they’ll report to the Giants’ complex in the Dominican Republic and follow the same conditioning drills.
It probably doesn’t look so good that Casilla’s little brother, Jose, has his visa and reported to camp on time.
Bochy plans to tweak the workouts before games start. He’ll have some groups ride the bus a mile down Hayden Road to the minor league complex so players aren’t standing around in large groups waiting for their turn in drills.
Although Tim Hudson and Marco Scutaro will get some extra time off their feet, don’t expect Bochy to take it easy on a team that was 76-86 last year.
“Was it fatigue from the previous year? The way they bounced back in the second half, I can’t say that,” Bochy said.
Congratulations to hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens, who joined 843 others in taking the oath of U.S. citizenship on Wednesday at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Meulens, who is from Curacao, had to renounce his Dutch ties because the Netherlands does not allow dual citizenship.
He’s appealing to King Willem-Alexander to keep his knightly title. But if not, you can call him the former Sir Bam Bam.