FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from the Fort, where Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval is expected to report, which will move the meter more than for any player other than Big Papi -- not for star power or future Hall of Fame credentials, but for sheer girth.
There was no sign of Kung Fu Panda when the media had their morning access to the clubhouse. A box of New Balance Fresh Foam shoes rested on the chair in front of his locker -- the same as at the lockers of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, who have not yet reported.
Last year, Sandoval -- in his first spring training after signing a five-year, $95 million contract with the Red Sox -- found himself portrayed in an unflattering photo posted by Boston.com's Steve Silva that showed the third baseman's protruding belly and inspired teammates to do their own "Panda Pose" photo. In the clubhouse, an animated Sandoval playfully challenged Silva to join him in a workout on the field.
During the season, Sandoval experienced a noticeable weight gain, and his performance cratered. In his worst season in the big leagues, he had a .245/.292/.366 slash line and was the lowest-ranked defensive third baseman in the majors among qualifiers.
New president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski mandated a weight loss and said at the team's Baseball Winter Weekend at Foxwoods Resort Casino that Sandoval had shed some pounds off his 2015 weight.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said last Wednesday that Sandoval was "roughly 20 pounds lighter than the last game he played for us in 2015."
The big questions: Has he kept it off? And can he keep it off?