FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There's no denying Pablo Sandoval looks better.
Miles better than this time last year, when he showed up for spring training with a massive gut that protruded from his jersey and tested the tensile strength of his waist band.
Let’s not forget the laughable claims by Red Sox ownership that Panda had whittled himself down to 17 percent body fat.
Wasn’t the case then. Probably isn’t now.
But he’s never looked this good. Not since signing his five-year, $95 million contract in the 2014-15 offseason.
Sandoval knows he hasn’t come close to living up to his contract and many fans have all but given up on him ever being a productive player in Boston.
“I have to prove everything,” said Sandoval. “Coming from an off year after injury, you have to prove a lot of things to the fans and your teammates and the sport that you’re back. You have to prove a lot in the field.”
Sandoval wouldn’t say how much weight he’d lost but the difference is obvious. He worked out hard all offseason, much of it here in Fort Myers.
“It was hard,” he said. “waking up at 5:30 to work out all day . . . Then I started boxing last month. I feel great.”
The reason for taking up boxing was to strengthen his shoulders. A left shoulder injury is what knocked the third baseman out of action for almost the entire 2016 season.
But Sandoval was inspired by more than just getting into better baseball shape. Last summer while on the DL a baby Panda was born. A son, Sandoval’s first child.
“My family, my baby,” Sandoval said when asked about his inspiration to get in better shape. “I just want to play eight more years, to show my son that he can see his Dad play when he’s growing up.”
But first Sandoval needs to prove all this offseason work has made him a better player, or at least closer to player he was before coming to Boston.
Asked if he feels he has to win his job back, Sandoval replied:
“Yes . . . [I] came here today to get ready to play baseball. That’s my main goal, to prove to the team that I can be the third baseman for the Boston Red Sox.”