Sandoval afforded no time for reflection

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Sandoval afforded no time for reflection

SAN FRANCISCO -- Babe Ruth. Reggie Jackson. Albert Pujols. Pablo Sandoval. It's one of baseball's most elite groups -- the offensive juggernauts who flexed their muscles under the brightest spotlight.

Sandoval's three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series etched his name in stone, but the big third baseman barely had time to read the 300-some text messages he received, let alone process the magnitude of his accomplishment. After all, he had homework to prepare for Doug Fister and Game 2, less than 24 hours later.

"You have to realize what's going on right now in your life," Sandoval said hours before Game 2. "So you have to keep your head up and keep focused."

The performance that earned him a tweet from Hugo Chvez, the President of his native Venezuela, will go down as one of the single greatest offensive games in World Series history.

The first player ever to hit three home runs in Game 1 of any postseason series. The first player to homer in his first three at-bats of a World Series Game. The second most total bases recorded in a World Series game. The list goes on, but so does the series, and Sandoval and his teammates have to be ready for Game 2.

RELATED: Sandoval writes name among World Series legends

Having a player of Sandoval's caliber dialed in at the plate in late October is an asset that can't be understated.

"Occasionally you get great athletes who get in a zone, and it really slows the game down," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I'm sure last night Pablo just saw the ball so well and it really slowed down for him. It's a credit to his talent. It's fun to watch great athletes when they get in the zone, especially when they're playing for you."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't have that luxury, but he appreciated what he witnessed nonetheless.

"You can't sit up here and say what he did tonight was a fluke," Leyland said. "I mean, it was unbelievable. The guy had one of those unbelievable World Series nights that they'll be talking about for years.So I tip my hat to him."

Plenty of others tipped their virtual hats to Sandoval. The face of the division-rival Dodgers, Matt Kemp, joined Chavez on Twitter to express his wonder.

Wow! That's all I can say. panda Matt Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp) October 25, 2012
All va el tercero, pues! Pablo pa' la Historia! Viva Venezuela!! Hugo Chvez Fras (@chavezcandanga) October 25, 2012
Sandoval is doing his best to take it all in.

"For me," the five-year veteran said, "it was exciting to see Matt Kemp -- he played with LA -- he sent me a tweet saying that. That means a lot me.

"There's a lot of things you have to realize in your career, you have to pay attention to all that. When your friends do good things, you want to support them."

Sandoval's immediate focus, though, is supporting his teammates in the World Series.

He already has half as many home runs this postseason (six) as he did during the regular season (12). And Sandoval just set the Giants franchise record with a six-game postseason RBI streak -- a record previously held by Barry Bonds. Over those six games, Sandoval is 12-for-25 (.480) with two doubles and five home runs and 10 total RBIs.

The Giants have scored 61 runs in 13 games these playoffs, and they've done in just about every way possible. But the key behind their 4.69 runs-per-playoff-game average (up from their 4.43 regular season average) has been striking first. The Giants are 7-1 when they score first this postseason, and a locked-in Sandoval would aid the early production quite a bit.

With success comes heightened levels of celebrity. But don't expect Sandoval to disguise himself, especially when he returns to Venezuela.

"I'm the kind of guy that spends time with fans out there, spend time with kids," Sandoval said. "That's what makes me happy out there."

What makes him happy right here in San Francisco, though, is playing baseball, and playing baseball well. Whether or not he's processed what he achieved, he'll be back in the batter's box at AT&T Park in Game 2.

Amidst a brighter media spotlight than he's ever been exposed to, Sandoval is doing his best to keep his mind in the right place.

"You have to keep focused and keep playing and keep working hard," Sandoval said.

There will be plenty of time in November for reflection -- and responding to text messages.

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco … 

 

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Aaron Hill didn't play in the final Cactus League game, but he didn't need to. By simply being on the flight to San Francisco on Tuesday, Hill got good news. 

The veteran infielder was due a $100,000 bonus on Tuesday, and while the Giants haven't formally announced their roster, you don't pay a man that much money to come play three exhibition games against the A's. Hill appears to have made this club as a second backup infielder, along with Conor Gillaspie. Another veteran, Jimmy Rollins, got the news that the Giants are headed in a different direction. 

Team officials spoke with Rollins this week about their future plans. He was not on the travel roster Tuesday and did not attend the game against the Cubs. 

"We're waiting to hear back from him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He knows the scenario and the situation. We're waiting to hear back."

Rollins, 38, showed the Giants that he can still handle shortstop defensively, and he was a quick learner when he moved to second. But he hit just .119, falling behind Hill, Kelby Tomlinson and others in the mix for bench spots. It would seem unlikely that Rollins would want to get additional at-bats in Triple-A, but that feeling hadn't been fully conveyed to team officials Tuesday. There was a hope that Rollins, an East Bay native, might join the team for the Bay Bridge Series, which finishes Saturday in Oakland. Rollins grew up an A's fan.

Rollins and Hill were part of a crowded infield group at the start of camp. Gordon Beckham also had a retention bonus and he asked to be released when he was told he wouldn't make the opening day roster. David Hernandez, the third player due a bonus, also was released. He promptly signed with the Atlanta Braves.