Sandoval: 'I have to prove everything'

Following strict offseason training regimen, third baseman needs to earn back position

Sandoval: 'I have to prove everything'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who spent much of his offseason on a ramped-up training regimen that included boxing, could probably say he is now at his fighting weight.

Though Thursday marked Sandoval's official arrival at camp, he spent much of his winter training in relative solitude at the Fenway South facility.

If you're looking for one of the best potential comeback stories of 2017, keep a close eye on Sandoval -- although there's now about 40 pounds less to see.

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After a tough opening campaign in Boston, Sandoval basically didn't have a 2016 season, first losing his starting job in Spring Training and then undergoing left shoulder surgery in April.

"I've come off the offseason being injured. I've come here ready to play baseball," said Sandoval. "That's my main goal, to prove to my teammates I can be the third baseman for the Boston Red Sox."

What else does Sandoval have to prove in 2017?

"Everything. I have to prove everything," said Sandoval. "And you come back, and you have to prove a lot of things to the fans, to the team, to your teammates, to the sport. You have to prove a lot of things out there on the field."

Though all signs point to Sandoval starting at third for the Red Sox on Opening Day, he will have to win back the very position he lost a year ago. The path has been cleared quite a bit by the offseason trades of Yoan Moncada and Travis Shaw. Brock Holt will be Sandoval's main competition.

"He's coming in to reclaim his position," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Sandoval. "That's something that he and I have talked about throughout the winter. He's done a great job of making the first step, and that is the body composition that he had to address, he's done that."

In Sandoval's first day of camp, he took a physical, did some hitting indoors and also took batting practice outdoors. As he walked back to the clubhouse, he was greeted warmly by fans.

"You look great, Pablo," was the most common thing Sandoval heard.

If Sandoval lost a little bit of drive after signing that five-year, $70 million contract in November 2014, he now has it all back. In fact, he says that his 10-month-old son has invigorated him.

"My baby," Sandoval said. "I want to play eight more years to show my son, so he can see his dad play growing up."

People sometimes forget Sandoval is still relatively young at 29.

Several times during Thursday's news conference, Sandoval thanked the Red Sox's training staff for its help with his new program. He vows to stick with it once the season starts.

As for the incorporation of boxing into his exercise, Sandoval credits his friend Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers' right-handed-hitting star.

"I've heard that it's going to help me for your shoulders -- getting your shoulders strong, so I decided to do it," Sandoval said. "Miggy told me that, too. It helps him to keep his shoulders strong. During the season especially, we take a lot of swings, we play a lot of games, we swing a lot in games, batting practice, all that, so to maintain your shoulder the strongest is one of the key points that we focused on in the offseason."

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.