Sandoval primed for comeback? Sox optimistic

Sandoval primed for comeback? Sox optimistic

BOSTON -- After the two trades the Red Sox made earlier this week, one thing became clear: Third base is open for Pablo Sandoval, and he has a chance to emerge into one of the comeback stories of 2017.

Travis Shaw was sent to Milwaukee as part of the Tyler Thornburg trade. Yoan Moncada was the centerpiece of the mega-deal that brought Chris Sale to Boston. Those are the two main players Sandoval would have been in competition with to man the hot corner for the Red Sox.

Brock Holt is still around, but the Red Sox have always valued him most as a rover who can play every position but pitcher and catcher.

"Well, it does show where we have faith in how he has worked hard, and he's been a good player in the past," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "He's worked very hard this winter. He's healthy. He's been at Fort Myers [Fla.] the whole time at our complex just working. We feel good about where he is from a health perspective. Of course, he has to do it."

After Sandoval lost his third-base job to Shaw late last Spring Training, it seemed like his days as a productive player in Boston could be about over. A couple of weeks later, he underwent season-ending surgery on his left shoulder.

As it turns out, that shoulder injury might have been the best thing that ever happened to Sandoval. It gave him time to regroup and figure out how to revive his career. By all accounts, Sandoval has used the time wisely, getting himself in the best condition he has been in in years.

A picture of Sandoval surfaced on Twitter earlier this week from Boston's training complex in Fort Myers, and it was stunning how much more fit he looked.

The photo was tangible proof of what Dombrowski and manager John Farrell have been saying about the 30-year-old Sandoval for weeks.

In fact, Sandoval now lives in Fort Myers, and aside from a recent vacation he took to Europe, he has been at the JetBlue Park facility nearly every day working out.

"I think the main thing that Pablo has done is put himself back in tremendous physical condition," said Farrell. "We're not asking for Pablo to be anything more than he was prior to signing him, and that is a very good, everyday Major League player. He's got to go back out and earn it."

There are three years left on the five-year, $95 million contract Sandoval signed to come to Boston -- so still plenty of time for him to redeem himself in much the same way Hanley Ramirez and Rick Porcello did last season.

In a lineup that includes many weapons from the right side (Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts), the Red Sox could really use Sandoval's left-handed production to help balance things out.

"His conditioning is very good. He continues to work hard and has lost significant weight since he was with us in the beginning of the year," said Dombrowski. "He's in the condition that we would like him to be in. He's also, as far as being in a position as far as his shoulder, he's fine, he's ready to play."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.