BOSTON (CBS) — After missing nearly all of last season, Pablo Sandoval showed up to Spring Training this year in much better shape and determined to reclaim the Red Sox starting third base job.

While manager John Farrell isn’t ready to commit to Sandoval starting at the hot corner just yet, it sounds all but inevitable following some flattering comments by the Boston skipper on Friday.

“He’s shown more in the first week of games than he did all of last spring,” Farrell told reporters. “From plays he’s made defensively, the range he’s showing, the way he’s getting down the line. He’s not a base-stealer, we know that. But he’s much more athletic. His at-bats have been much more consistent. This is like we have a much different player this year compared to last.”

Sandoval has been impressive so far this spring, going 5-for-12 at the plate with a pair of doubles, two RBIs and a run scored in his four games. He’s played 21 innings at third, handling all eight of the balls hit his way with ease.

No announcement is expected anytime soon in regards to who will be manning third when the regular season rolls around, but Farrell said it will happen “in time.”

“Competition makes us all better,” said Farrell. “We’re not going to remove that element from our camp.”

[graphiq id=”e0rv8NE23KB” title=”Pablo Sandoval Career Batting” width=”600″ height=”462″ url=”” link=”” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

It wasn’t until the end of Spring Training last season that he announced that Travis Shaw would be Boston’s starting third baseman, but Sandoval doesn’t really have much competition this time around. Brock Holt has been playing shortstop with Xander Bogaerts at the World Baseball Classic, and has yet to see time over at third, with journeyman Matt Dominguez (24 innings) and prospect Rafael Devers (19 innings) getting the bulk of the action when Sandoval’s exhibition duties are done.

His slimmer appearance and production in the field, not to mention the fact he’s already earned some praise from Farrell, are good signs that Sandoval is eager to prove himself to the team in 2017. Expectations are low after a disappointing first two seasons in Boston, but he appears to be on the right track this spring.


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