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One valuable Panda: Sandoval is World Series MVP

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One valuable Panda: Sandoval is World Series MVP

DETROIT (AP) Pablo Sandoval not only has baseball's neatest nickname, Kung Fu Panda has a World Series MVP award to go along with it.

Sandoval took home the trophy following the San Francisco Giants' sweep of Detroit, hitting .500 with three home runs, a double and four RBIs in 16 Series at-bats.

``I was ready for the moment,'' he said after a 4-3 victory in 10 innings Sunday night. ``It's just an incredible moment you're never going to forget.''

This Panda works with maple, not bamboo.

Sandoval got the Giants off to a powerful start by hitting three homers in the opener against the Tigers, becoming the fourth player to accomplish that feat in a World Series game.

He made his big league debut on Aug. 14, 2008, and earned his nickname just a month later. That Sept. 19 at Dodger Stadium, Sandoval scored from second on Bengie Molina's first-inning single off Greg Maddux, leaping sideways to avoid catcher Danny Ardoin's lunging tag on the throw from center fielder Matt Kemp.

Maddux and Dodgers manager Joe Torre argued Sandoval ran out of the baseline. Barry Zito, on the mound for the Giants that night, coined the nickname for Sandoval's oversized personality and roly-poly shape - the animated film ``Kung Fu Panda'' had been released in theaters that June.

``The Panda has special powers,'' Zito said in the middle of champagne spray in the Giants' crowded clubhouse. ``I watched that movie and thought, he's a guy that if you see him, you may not think he's so athletic, and then all of sudden, you're like, wow! This guy is one of the better players in baseball.''

And the jovial Sandoval loved the moniker.

``It's me. The character is me,'' he said. ``Have fun, like a little kid, fight for everything, never lose faith. It's important when you have teammates thinking that way, you are that guy.''

While Sandoval hit .330 in 2009 and finished second to Hanley Ramirez in the NL batting race, the Giants launched ``Operation Panda'' that offseason, telling him to ditch the Big Macs, fries and milkshakes in favor of chicken breast on wheat bread, watermelon slices, bananas and oranges. He started lifting.

Sandoval's weight is listed at 240 on the Giants' website, 235 on the players' site. At one point, he had been up to at least 272.

``I just want to keep that a secret,'' he said three years ago, trying to avoid an exact number.

By the time the 2010 World Series rolled around, when the Giants won their first title in 56 years, Sandoval was benched for four of five games following a slump. His weight had gone up again, and his batting average had gone down to .268. He made 13 errors and grounded into a league-high 26 double plays.

``I know it was a tough time in 2010 when he got relegated to the bench there,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``He really wanted to, I think, shine on stage. He's a great talent and we got him hot at the right time.''

Sandoval hit .369 this postseason with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBIs. Quite a turnaround from his .176 average with two RBIs two years ago.

He has come a long way since then. He hired a personal chef. He ran up desert hills in Arizona during the offseason, causing him to throw up regularly. Sandoval's average rebounded to .315, and he made his first All-Star team. Then at this summer's showcase in Kansas City, he hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history, a drive off Justin Verlander in a five-run first inning that helped secure home-field advantage for the NL in the World Series.

After Sandoval went deep three times in the opener, matching the Series record shared by Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols, the Giants sold 760 more of their furry panda hats, including 466 at AT&T Park during Game 2. Venezuela President Hugo Chavez tweeted, ``Pablo going down in history! Long live Venezuela!!''

``I still can't believe that game. It's the game of your dreams,'' Sandoval said. ``You don't want to wake up.''

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.

With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.

Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.

The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.

Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."

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