BOSTON (CBS) — Pablo Sandoval reported to Spring Training early and in shape, a stark contrast to last season when he looked quite rotund when he reported for duty in Fort Myers, Florida.

Sandoval played just three games in 2016 before undergoing shoulder surgery, but with David Ortiz’s bat missing from the Boston lineup and Travis Shaw traded to Milwaukee, the Red Sox need the third baseman to live up to the five-year, $95 million contract he signed two years ago.

98.5 The Sports Hub’s Tony Massarotti joined Steve Burton on WBZ-TV’s Sports Final on Sunday night to discuss the team heading into the 2017 season, and said the Red Sox sorely lack a left-handed bat in their lineup. It’s possible that Sandoval could help in that department, but Mazz cautions any fans expecting a career year out of the third baseman.

“He came into camp in good shape — that’s a good sign. It looks like he’s motivated again and it looks like he has something to prove again. But in his best year, what can Pablo Sandoval give them? Can he hit third? No. He’s not good enough,” said Mazz. “I’m going on what he’s shown in the past. To me, you can’t go into and say this guy is going to give you a career year. He’s never hit 30 homers in a season, so realistically what are you going to get. You’ll get .290, 15-20 hoers and 75-80 RBIs, if he stays healthy.”

Boston’s strength this season will be their rotation, with one of the best trios in the majors Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. But the pressure is on for that staff to lead the way when it matters the most.

“David Price has got to be better. He had a good run at the end the regular season but hit the playoffs and it went puff. It also went puff for Porcello,” said Mazz. “As much as we love Sale and the acquisition, I also think you have a rotation of guys who have not won a postseason game. We can worry about that when we get there, and there’s no question the rotation is the strength of the team. I think there are some questions offensively in the lineup, and I’m not sold on the bullpen either.”

Despite their flaws in the lineup, the Red Sox head into the 2017 as the team to beat in AL East.

“They’re absolutely the class of the division with the changes that Toronto has undergone,” said Mazz. “Anything is possible, but if they don’t win the division it’s a major failure. A major failure.”

Watch the full segment in the video above, including a hearty discussion on who should get the ball on opening day. Tune in to Sports Final and Sports Final OT every Sunday night at 11:35 p.m. on WBZ-TV!



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