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Sandoval ready to embrace backup role after Longoria trade

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AP

Sandoval ready to embrace backup role after Longoria trade

SCOTTSDALE — Pablo Sandoval was heard before he was seen on Wednesday morning, and that’s the way he likes it.

“Every time I get in the clubhouse I’m the loudest guy,” he said. “I try to keep these guys loose.”

Sandoval made his rounds on the first day of workouts at Scottsdale Stadium, chatting with younger players, yelling as he watched a clubhouse TV with veteran starters, and sitting with fellow Venezuelan Gregor Blanco for a bit. Sandoval also met with manager Bruce Bochy briefly, but their next discussion will be more important. 

With Evan Longoria set to be the everyday third baseman, Bochy has been waiting for the opportunity to chat with Sandoval about his role. It will be vastly reduced, with the former All-Star set to back up Longoria and occasionally Brandon Belt. At the outset, Sandoval is saying all the right things. 

“Those guys (Longoria and Andrew McCutchen) were faces of the franchise for their old teams,” he said. “The front office did a great job of bringing those guys here to win. (Being a backup) is a role, and you have to do everything you can to be ready.”

The Giants believe Sandoval’s personality actually makes him the perfect choice for pinch-hit at-bats in big spots. His natural aggression is something Bochy likes from pinch-hitters, and Sandoval certainly has no fear. Sandoval’s energy should be an asset late in games. 

“It’s huge. Oh yeah, that’s something we really haven’t had,” Bochy said, noting that some past options have been more likely to quietly lock in on their own. 

Bochy won’t mind if Sandoval is in his ear the whole game. This was a quiet group last year and could use that kind of fire, and that’s one reason the Giants were so eager to bring Sandoval back after he hit just .225 upon returning last summer. Bochy went into the offseason confident that Sandoval could be an asset in a reserve role. 

“You have to look at intangibles on a player and how he accepts something or is with the club,” Bochy said. “The guy wants to be liked and help a team. He’s not just worried about his numbers.”

Sandoval’s past springs with the Giants have always been partly about the number on the scale, but he arrived looking fit. He also arrived with extra gloves, a sign that he’s willing to do what it takes to make the opening day roster. Sandoval caught 176 games in the minors and said he’ll break in a catcher’s glove over the next seven weeks. The Giants hope he can be a more useful emergency catcher than the ones they’ve had in recent years. 

“You know,” Bochy said, smiling. “Since (Pedro) Feliz retired we haven’t had that.”

--- Pitchers threw off the bullpen mounds for the first time, but Johnny Cueto didn’t join in. Cueto had the flu before arriving in camp and he’s about five days behind the rest of the group. Bochy said Cueto is still pretty “washed out.”

--- Right-hander Chris Heston returned to the organization in January but didn’t get a camp invite. It turns out he’s actually at a minicamp at the minor league facility for now, but he’s expected over at Scottsdale Stadium at some point. The staff wanted Heston and others to get more work in before joining the big leaguers. The group at Scottsdale Stadium is much smaller than in past years, so the cuts shouldn't be as dramatic over the next few weeks. 

--- In case you missed it, Buster Posey was the latest guest on The Giants Insider Podcast. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. There are plenty more coming this spring, so subscribe if you can. 

--- What is a spring day like for Mark Melancon? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look. 

--- Rain washed out the last few minutes of Wednesday’s workout, but if you’re looking for a baseball fix, I have videos and photos on my Instagram page. 

What they're saying: Happy Mother's Day 2018

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USATSI

What they're saying: Happy Mother's Day 2018

Check out how Bay Area athletes honored their mom's and the mother's of their children today!

Happy Mother’s Day!

A post shared by Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) on

Happy Mother’s Day to my 👑❤️

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Building Raiders roster a 'team effort' for Gruden, McKenzie

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AP

Building Raiders roster a 'team effort' for Gruden, McKenzie

ORLANDO, Fla. – Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is a popular guy, widely respected among players and in NFL circles. The same can be said for his coordinators and many position coaches.

General manager Reggie McKenzie understands that. He used those assets to help recruit free agents to Oakland.

He also remains in close communication with those designing new Raiders schemes. Jon Gruden’s in charge of the offense, while coordinator Paul Guenther will install a new defense.

McKenzie is focused on getting guys they want, guys who will fit well within new schemes.

“One thing about Gruden is that I know exactly what he wants, which is great for me,” McKenzie said Monday in a meeting with Raiders beat writers at the NFL owners meetings. “I know exactly what is needed for his (offensive) system. It’s the same with (defensive coordinator Paul Guenther). I know exactly what kind of players they want at each position. That makes my job a lot easier, instead of trying to figure out what works best."

Raiders owner Mark Davis told NBC Sports Bay Area on Sunday that McKenzie plays a different role with Gruden in the mix, and that the head coach’s vision for the team is most important.

“That vision, and that direction is going to be helpful to Reggie more so than not,” Davis said. “I think they’ll work together very well.”

McKenzie agrees. He praised the level of communication with Gruden and his assistants and believes they executed an aggressive free-agency plan well working together.

“The communication is constant, and I’m not just talking about Coach Gruden,” McKenzie said. “I’m talking about the entire staff. It’s well-received.”

The Raiders signed 20 guys in free agency, with 16 new faces and four returners thus far, at least after Reggie Nelson’s deal becomes official in the coming days. McKenzie used the coaching staff to help close deals, and get guys they coveted.

“It’s a team effort, I’m telling you,” McKenzie said. “The good part about it, is that players want to come. Players want to be coached by our guys. When we can get coaches heavily involved in communicating with those guys and when we get those guys in the building, our coaches did a great job recruiting those (free-agent signings).”