Giants expecting more big things from Sandoval |

Giants expecting more big things from Sandoval

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – The San Francisco Giants are expecting more big things from young slugger Pablo Sandoval.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy had thoughts over the winter about moving the switch-hitting Sandoval from his customary No. 3 spot in the batting order to cleanup, hoping to take advantage of a power stroke that produced 25 home runs, 90 RBIs and a .330 average last year.

But the signing of first baseman Aubrey Huff prompted Bochy to alter his plan. He’ll bat Huff cleanup and keep the 23-year-old Sandoval at No. 3.

“I’m just going to go out and play. It doesn’t matter where I hit,” Sandoval said Tuesday, when the Giants held their first full-squad workout of spring training.

And it doesn’t seem to matter where the ball is pitched.

“He’s got tremendous talent to hit a baseball. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the strike zone,” Bochy said. “He’s very tough to pitch to. Up high, down low, in and out. He’s a guy I know we lean on, and at the same time other teams talk about, ‘Don’t let Pablo beat you.’ That’s how good he is.”

Sandoval is popular among his teammates, too. They affectionately call him “Kung Fu Panda,” a reference to his boundless energy and 5-foot-11, 245-pound frame.

“We have a bunch of guys like that,” catcher Bengie Molina said. “That helps get you relaxed. But he knows when to be serious and takes care of business on the field.”

Sandoval provided a glimpse of his potential in 2008, hitting .345 in 41 games, then played in 153 games last year. He played 120 games at third base, 26 at first base, three at catcher, four interleague games as a designated hitter, and one as a pinch-hitter.

“He can hit the ball, no question,” Molina said. “I always look at who is before him and who is after him and whether they are better because of him. I’d say that is definitely the case with us.”

Sandoval played winter ball back home in Venezuela and worked out in Arizona in the weeks leading up to the start of camp. He talked about maintaining the proper tempo, from eating properly to being fundamentally sound on the field.

“A good tempo is what you have to have. We have it,” he said. “I like playing third. I like the hot corner. My hitting … I just want to do the same that I have been doing, working hard.”

NOTES: Bochy was pleased with the club’s first workout, but said Wednesday’s session would be about an hour longer as pitchers stretch their arms out. … OFs Darren Ford and Thomas Neal (non-roster) looked strong with the bat, along with catcher Buster Posey. … The team is expected to play its first intrasquad game on March 1, two days before its spring training opener against Seattle in Peoria.