Pablo Sandoval

Giants could give Pablo Sandoval a few innings in left field this spring

Giants could give Pablo Sandoval a few innings in left field this spring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When he checked into camp last spring, Pablo Sandoval took out a catcher's glove to show reporters he was ready for any role. He ended up catching a few bullpen sessions in camp and spent the year serving as Bruce Bochy’s emergency catcher.

Sandoval also brought an outfield glove to camp last spring, but Bochy laughed last year when asked about that possibility, cracking, “he doesn’t need to show me that glove.”

A year later, the Giants are no longer joking about that possibility. Sandoval has been taking fly balls on back fields this spring and Bochy hopes to get him into left field in at least one Cactus League game.

For the Giants, this is not meant as a solution to their outfield woes. But they have three backup infield options -- Sandoval, Yangervis Solarte and Alen Hanson -- who are somewhat similar in terms of roster fit, so they’re looking for as much versatility as they can get.

[RELATED: Cool moment for Ramos family: Heliot, Henry share outfield]

Solarte has gotten a look in left this spring and Hanson played there at times last year, so Sandoval is also getting a crash course. You never know what will happen during a long season -- Sandoval ended up starting two games at second base last season. 

Sandoval never did end up catching last year, and this experiment is just as unlikely. But at some point, we may see Sandoval in the outfield regardless of need. Bochy has said he wants to let Sandoval play all nine positions in one game, and this is the manager’s last season and the final year of Sandoval’s contract.

Watch Giants' Pablo Sandoval pitch from mound in spring training practice

Watch Giants' Pablo Sandoval pitch from mound in spring training practice

Giants fans, this is the moment you've been waiting for all winter long.

No, it is not Bryce Harper in an orange and black uniform.

But it is something just as good: Pablo Sandoval on the mound (ok maybe not quite as good, but still).

Kerry Crowley from the Bay Area News Group captured Sandoval throwing off the mound on Saturday morning before the Giants prepared for the first spring training game of the year (weather permitting).

Sandoval, of course, famously pitched a 1-2-3 inning last season vs. the Dodgers. He flashed impressive stuff -- a mid-80s fastball and a hammer curveball -- and Giants fans loved it.

[RELATED: Sandoval plays the role of "recruiting director" in offseason]

More position players pitched last year than ever before, as managers found it more and more worthwhile not to "waste" a relief pitcher in a blowout game.

So don't be surprised if, in Bruce Bochy's final season, he gives the Panda another shot or two on the mound.

Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, more Giants will have different look at plate

Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, more Giants will have different look at plate

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After 10 days of watching him take batting practice and do catching drills, the Giants fully expect Buster Posey to be in the lineup on March 28 in San Diego. When he digs into the box, you'll see a different look from Posey, now in his 11th big league season. 

Posey is one of a dozen Giants wearing a batting helmet with a flap this spring. Last year, the Giants had just two players on their active roster -- Aramis Garcia and Chase d'Arnaud -- with a flap protecting the jaw. Posey said he plans to use the new helmet during the 2019 season. 

"I thought about changing last year but I didn't want to do it during the season," he said. "It's just about getting more protection."

Not surprisingly, the catchers appear to be leading the way. Garcia started wearing a helmet flap after suffering a facial fracture in 2016 while playing for the San Jose Giants. René Rivera started wearing the bigger helmet last year, not because of concussion issues -- Posey and Garcia both have had concussions behind the plate -- but because of what he was seeing from pitchers. 

"Everyone is throwing harder every year, and a lot of these guys are throwing up in the zone now," he said, mimicking a fastball that moves quickly towards a batter's head. "It's extra protection at the plate."

The catchers aren't the only ones with the new look. Pablo Sandoval had a flap on his helmet during live batting practice sessions earlier this week, along with Cameron Maybin, who wore one last year with the Marlins and Mariners. Others are expected to follow. 

The change for homegrown Giants has a lot to do with a change by Rawlings. The equipment company has a new helmet that is made to withstand a 105 mph fastball, an increase from the old helmet that withstood 100 mph. The r-flap has been redesigned and is not as bulky. 

Brad Grems, the clubhouse coordinator, said Rawlings engineers will be in the clubhouse Friday to show players their new helmets. Rawlings now has flaps that can be screwed onto the helmet in three different positions, allowing for more flexibility and comfort. Garcia said the old flap, while necessary for him, would often press against his face. 

[RELATED: What Zaidi will look for in next Giants manager]

According to Grems, the new helmet will be a better fit for players' heads. By 2020, Rawlings plans to roll out the new, better-fitting helmet in every clubhouse. By then, you could see a lot more players protecting their jaws with a helmet flap.