Sandoval will not rest on laurels


Sandoval will not rest on laurels

PHOENIX -- Pablo Sandoval is understandably proud of the season he's put together, but he's not exactly satisfied, and that should be music to the Giants' ears.In a conversation with Sandoval here, he expressed great satisfaction with having worked himself into shape with a winter of grueling workouts, and seeing the work pay off in an All-Star selection motivates him to maintain the habits he established offseason."It makes you want to do it again," he said. "Actually, it makes you want to do more."Nobody disputes the notion that Sandoval, over the course of the season, put on some of the pounds he lost. Most estimates fall in the 10- to 15-pound range. But considering he lost more than 40 in the offseason, he's still 25 or 30 pounds to the good. And still lighter than he was in 2009, when he burst onto the scene with a monster first season.He's been outstanding at third base all season, and he's been the most consistently productive hitter on the team, and hes sure to be handsomely rewarded this winter via his first year of salary arbitration.His season hasn't been without disappointment, of course. He missed about six weeks, likely costing him his first 30-homer season, and he's fighting some serious pain in his left shoulder as the season comes to a close. He's hoping to avoid surgery, but it can't be ruled out.No matter what happens with his shoulder, though, he's determined to work harder than ever this winter. Last season his motivation was partly tied to job security; general manager Brian Sabean essentially threatened to send him to the minors if he didn't shape up. This winter, the motivation will come from within."It's for the team, but it's for me, too," he said. "I want to play this game a long time, and I'm young. There's a lot of things I can do better."What, exactly, can Sandoval do better? He's coy about that, leaving it to the imagination."Everything, man. Everything," he said.Sandoval is 25, just entering his prime, so of course there's room for improvement. But there wasn't much more he could have done for the Giants this year.Or was there? Give us your thoughts.

Johnny Cueto slowed Hunter Pence down, but the Rockies couldn't

Johnny Cueto slowed Hunter Pence down, but the Rockies couldn't

SAN FRANCISCO — Hunter Pence walked into the dugout 30 minutes before Tuesday’s game, slid his bat into the rack, and smiled. 

“I’m hitting leadoff tonight,” he said, noting that it’s a spot for speedsters. 

On this night, it was a spot that was slowed down. Pence kept the bat steady on a couple of big swings that led the Giants to a 4-3 win. He accompanied that with a home run jog that was one of the comedic highlights in a season sorely lacking them. 

Pence’s fifth-inning blast to dead center was the go-ahead shot at the time, and Pence made his usual quick trip around first and second. When he approached third, he was confronted by a strange sight. Johnny Cueto, who had singled, turned and held his hand up. The two hit the bag a few feet apart, and Cueto practically walked home. He took 13 seconds to go the final 90 feet, and Pence — once nicknamed Full Throttle by his manager — had no choice but to follow in a power-walk of his own. 

“I was like, ‘I’m not the starting pitcher.’ They expend a lot of energy — every pitch is like a sprint,” Pence said. “You’ve got to take it easy if they tell you to take it easy.”

Pence has 218 career homers. He said this was the slowest jog of his career, and that’s exactly what Cueto wanted. 

“Obviously I was very happy when he hit the home run, and I just kept telling him to go ahead and slow down and enjoy the homer, because you're always running so fast,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. 

The home run power-walk was a funny moment, but it was also instructive. Pence brings the same energy and enjoyable attitude every day. In Cueto, his neighbor in the clubhouse, he has found a similar player. He said he’s hopeful that Cueto returns next season — as is expected — and noted that it’s a positive trait to have fun in this kind of season. 

“That’s imperative and it’s extremely important to keep that passion,” Pence said. “It’s not just about the standings. We love competing.”

Cueto showed his own fire by getting a lead into the seventh despite a soaring early pitch count. When Hunter Strickland coughed it up in the eighth, the Giants bounced right back. Pence ended the night with a sacrifice fly to center with the bases loaded. That capped a big night for him, one that left him smiling from start to finish. 

“It’s always a good time when you’re hitting a homer,” he said. 

Perhaps that’s why Cueto forced him to soak it all in.

Giants lineup: Two righties back in for opener against Rockies


Giants lineup: Two righties back in for opener against Rockies

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Rockies-Giants coverage begins at 6pm with Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming right here.

After dealing with back spasms over the weekend, Hunter Pence is back in the lineup Tuesday against the Rockies.

Colorado Rockies:
1. Charlie Blackmon (L) CF
2. DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B
3. Carlos Gonzalez (L) RF
4. Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
5. Gerardo Parra (L) LF
6. Trevor Story (R) SS
7. Ian Desmond (R) 1B
8. Jonathan Lucroy (R) C
9. German Marquez (R) P

San Francisco Giants:
1. Hunter Pence (R) RF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Denard Span (L) CF
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Jarrett Parker (L) LF
7. Pablo Sandoval (S) 1B
8. Ryder Jones (L) 3B
9. Johnny Cueto (R) RHP