Giants

Pablo Sandoval thankful for second chance with Giants after Red Sox stint

Pablo Sandoval thankful for second chance with Giants after Red Sox stint

After helping the Giants win the 2014 World Series -- the franchise's third title in five seasons -- Pablo Sandoval left the Bay Area to sign a massive contract with the Boston Red Sox. But it wasn't the happy marriage he envisioned.

Sandoval struggled with injuries during his time in Boston, never living up to the five-year, $95 million contract the Red Sox gave him. It came to a head in 2017, when the Red Sox decided it was in their best interest to cut Sandoval -- believing his career to be all but over -- and eat the remaining $49.5 million left on the deal. 

After the Red Sox kicked him to the curb, Sandoval was labeled one of the biggest free-agent busts in recent history. That was a blow to the third baseman's ego.

"Being let go by the Red Sox hurt, especially because I was coming back from an injury and going through so many things in my life," Sandoval told ESPN's Marly Rivera. "I am a person who loves this sport. This is my passion. Besides my family, there is nothing I love more, and baseball has given me many blessings.

"But I also put in a lot of work and made many sacrifices, and I wasn't ready to leave the game. I wanted to prove to everyone, especially my children and my family, and set the example for my children, that in spite of the things that may happen to you, you always have to fight on."

Despite being cut by the Red Sox, blasted by the Boston media and fan base for his weight and lack of performance, Sandoval used his time in Boston as a way to grow.

"Being in Boston was a learning experience," Sandoval said. "The truth is that it was a great organization, and I have nothing against [the Red Sox]. And the fans, they are demanding, they want to see their players contribute. They want to see the best of them. And I learned from that."

Once he was cast aside by the Red Sox, Sandoval was hoping for one more chance to prove he still could hack it at the big league level. Of course, the Giants and manager Bruce Bochy still believed in him. They agreed to bring him back, but with the understanding that he was coming back to a different role on a different Giants team than the one he had left. 

"It was a learning opportunity because I had to start from scratch, forget what I had accomplished in the past and now try to do something different and accept a new role [as a bench player]," Sandoval told Rivera. "That has been difficult for me, to accept that role after playing every day or wanting to be an everyday player.

"But I am enjoying myself to the fullest. And I do that with a lot of love for those people who are in that office, that from the first they opened the doors to me."

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Sandoval adapted to his new role and has started to thrive once again with the Giants. This season he is slashing .269/.314/.509 with 14 home runs and 41 RBI, while playing an important role in helping the Giants make a push for the playoffs.

The veteran third baseman is thankful the Giants and Bochy believed in him and gave him one more chance to shine in the Bay.

"Despite all the things that I'd went through, the Giants always trusted me and they gave me the blessing of returning home. I am trying to make the best out of this second chance," Sandoval told ESPN.

"I think [Bochy] has been a very important factor in me being here today. He has always fought for me and put his feet to the fire for me, and I know I owe this second chance to him, and I love giving it all for him in what will be his final year."

Giants' Ron Wotus to honor high school coach at 'Coaching Corps' Awards

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USATSI

Giants' Ron Wotus to honor high school coach at 'Coaching Corps' Awards

When the Giants take the field next month at Scottsdale Stadium, Ron Wotus will begin his 23rd consecutive season on the big league coaching staff, a feat that is impressive for much more than simple longevity. 

Wotus was the only member of Bruce Bochy's staff to be brought back by Gabe Kapler, and before that he jumped from Felipe Alou to Bochy, and Dusty Baker to Alou. He is working with his fourth Giants manager because of a commitment to hard work, preparation, communication and competitiveness, traits that Wotus first started to hone as a star at Bacon Academy in Colchester, Connecticut. 

Wotus has spent most of his life in professional baseball, but the skillset that he still leans on today first became a part of his life on a different patch of grass. He carries with him the lessons taught by John McKiernan, his high school soccer coach. 

"I have such great memories of playing soccer. It was by far my favorite sport, and it's because of John," Wotus said. "If he wasn't my coach, there's no way it would have been my favorite sport. He's special. He knows how to connect, he knows how to relate, he's got a great sense of humor, he's super-competitive, but he's got that great balance that all the good ones have. And he cares."

Wotus has spent his professional life helping to develop players like Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Brandon Belt, and on Thursday night he'll get a chance to honor the man who taught him so much of what he still passes on. Wotus will honor McKiernan at the sixth annual Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards, which will air Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area. 

When Wotus was called and asked to honor an instrumental coach in his life, he immediately turned to his wife, Laurie. He knew what he wanted to do.

"I got emotional and she immediately said, 'You have to honor John,'" Wotus said. "This is over 45 years ago that we met. All these years that have passed, you really realize how important he was to your life."

Wotus met McKiernan in middle school, and the latter immediately knew that there was something different about the young boy who would go on to play four years of varsity baseball, soccer and basketball at Bacon Academy, a small school with a graduating class of about 100 students. 

"You could see (in fifth grade) that he was very gifted," McKiernan said. "He lit up the room when he was in it ... He was always so happy to be on the field or the court or the diamond. He just loved athletics and he loved competing and he was always prepared and ready to go. Whatever we were doing he seemed to enjoy, except maybe he didn't like all the running we did in soccer. I think he could have done without that."

All that running still sticks with Wotus four-plus decades later. He remembers McKiernan's soccer team doing heavy conditioning work. It was necessary for the small-school team. 

"What he said to us was that we may not have the most skill on the field, but we'll be the best conditioned and we'll make up for any lack of skill that we have," Wotus said. "That stuck with me. Don't be out-conditioned, don't be outworked, don't be out-prepared. I think that's the foundation of my approach as a coach. You have to give it your all and you're going to prepare. It's the preparation that's important, and then you go out and compete."

The competing part was easy for Wotus, a three-sport star. McKiernan coached the junior varsity basketball team but never had Wotus there because he was put on varsity right away, eventually earning all-state honors. The Pirates selected Wotus in the 16th round of the 1979 draft and he ended up playing 32 games in the big leagues. It was on the soccer field, however, that Wotus made his biggest prep impact. He was an All-New England center forward for Bacon, scoring 89 career goals, which stood as a state record for more than two decades. 

McKiernan remembers Wotus for much more than the prolific numbers. He said Wotus constantly pushed to make sure his teammates were recognized and brought intensity no matter the score. "He never thought that we were out of a game," McKiernan said. Wotus matched his production with dependability. 

In four years, he never missed a practice in any of his three sports, and he sat out just one game in his high school career, the result of a sprained ankle. With a tournament coming up, McKiernan held his star out of the final game of the season so he could get back to 100 percent. 

"He tried to sneak into the game a few times," McKiernan said. "I had to pull him back."

The relationship that was built during soccer practices and hundreds of games of horse on the basketball court has lasted to this day. McKiernan has been out to San Francisco a couple of times to visit Wotus, who was the bench coach for all three title teams. Occasionally he'll plan a cross-country road trip that allows him to visit Wotus in a visiting city. 

Wotus is getting ready for his 33rd year in the Giants organization. Before he gets back to baseball, he'll take a moment to honor the man who made such an impact during his soccer career. It was an easy choice to give the award to McKiernan.

"John, he was the guy. The way I coach now, I think of him often," Wotus said. "I try to emulate him in a lot of ways."

Farhan Zaidi expects Giants to be aggressive in promoting top prospects

Farhan Zaidi expects Giants to be aggressive in promoting top prospects

When Baseball America released its latest list of top 100 prospects, the Giants saw three of their young players mentioned within the first 63 names. 

Leading the Giants at No. 19 overall, though, is shortstop Marco Luciano. The young infielder full of power is only 18 years old, but he likely won't make his MLB debut until at least 2020 when he would be 20. 

Behind Luciano is 23-year-old catcher Joey Bart and 20-year-old outfielder Heliot Ramos. Both players are expected to begin the 2020 season in Triple-A Sacramento. It's also reasonable to expect Bart and Ramos to make their way to San Francisco this year. 

"I don't think it's out of the question, and that's one thing that we tried to do this past year," Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi recently said on KNBR. "We had a lot of guys make their debut. We moved guys aggressively through the system.

"I think that not only creates excitement through the fans and people at the major league level, but for the players themselves."

Zaidi also included 6-foot-11 pitcher Sean Hjelle in the conversation with Bart and Ramos. The Giants promoted all three prospects from San Jose to Double-A Richmond last season.

Bart and Hjelle both are non-roster invitees for Giants' big league camp in spring training. 

Zaidi wasn't just referring to top prospects, though. Reliever Tyler Rogers finally was given a chance in the bigs at 28 years old last season and posted a 1.02 ERA in 17 games for the Giants. 

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"Promoting guys aggressively and rewarding performance, rewarding guys addressing areas of weakness that have been pointed out to them as things that they need to address, that's a real positive," Zaidi said. "I expect us to continue on that path in 2020." 

The Giants are going through a rebuild with hopes of competing as contenders again in the near future. Zaidi is ready for a youth movement in San Francisco, and you should be, too.