Giants

Sandoval seeing clearly, swinging crisply

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Sandoval seeing clearly, swinging crisply

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval had aresurgent season in 2011, when he became an All-Star for the first time. Butthe switch-hitting Panda hasnt been able to duplicate his initial success fromthe right side. He hit .379 as a right-handed hitter in 2009,including six home runs in 145 at-bats. Sandoval believeshes ready to crush from that side again. His sore left shoulder is improvedfollowing an offseason of rehab work. And his vision is clear after havingLASIK surgery on his left eye inNovember.
No more fiddling with contact lenses or goggles.

Yeah, itsvery different, said Sandoval, after putting on a fireworks show from bothsides of the plate in the Giants first full-squad workout Friday. I feelbetter. I can see better. I can see the ball, the rotation.And the shoulder? Powerful, he said. Nopain. It's not like Sandoval struggled with hisright-handed swing last season. He hit .290 from the right side and .324 as aleft-handed hitter. But he never got comfortable with any correctiveeyewear. He certainly doesnt want to be limited as he waslast September, when he couldnt swing the bat from the right side and had tosit against lefties down the stretch. He doesnt want to revisit those fourplate appearances when he tried to go lefty-on-lefty. (He was 0 for 3 with twostrikeouts and a sacrifice.) No, that wasnt fun, he said,smiling. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he didnt considerSandovals shoulder a dead issue, though. Its a firstday, Bochy said. To see him able to swing without pain, sure, Im sure hesglad hes over it. Now weve got to stay on top of this and make sure itdoesnt flare up again. Its an injury that takes time. Imsure he was frustrated because it affected his playing time. Hes back to beinga switch hitter and Im sure hes excited. Sandoval said hewent several weeks without picking up a bat in the offseason before heparticipated in the Pepsi Home Run Derby in Venezuela. Its a heralded event inhis home country. He has beaten out Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez in pastyears. This time, with no practice?Bad, he said, shaking his head.

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

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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