Pablo Sandoval Looking for a New Challenge with Red Sox

Pablo Sandoval has arrived in Boston.

The new Red Sox third baseman met with the media Tuesday when he was introduced by GM Ben Cherington and said the decision to sign with the Red Sox over returning to the Giants was not an easy one.

“It was a tough decision for me,” Sandoval said. “It took me a long time to be sure that I was going to make the right decision. This is similar, but the Giants gave me the opportunity to be in the big leagues. Opened the door, teach me how to respect the game. The Giants fans, one of the best, but in that time I want to close the cycle that I got there.

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“But I want a new challenge. I made that choice to be here in Boston because I need a new challenge. The legacy they have here. To show them the fan support they have here. That’s what I wanted to make sure I made the right decision. It took me a long time but I’m happy to show the fans all the support they gave to this team. Now I want to show I came here to give them the support to go into the postseason again.”

Cherington said third base has been a challenge for his team but he thinks the issue is solved with Sandoval on board.

“We believe he fits the ballpark well,” Cherington said. “He’s a line drive hitter who puts the ball in play a lot, hits a lot of balls hard to left and left center. There’s a lot about it that appealed to us.

“Third base, has been a position we’ve been trying to figure out now for a couple of years. We had some talented players that I’ve been involved in at third base that we’ve given opportunities, but this is an opportunity to add just a really good player, a great person, and a great fit for our team in a position of need.”

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Sandoval signed a $95 million deal with a breakdown as follows: $3 million signing bonus and $17 million in 2015-17; in 2018 and 2019 he earns $18 million. There’s a club option for $17 million in 2020 with a $5 million buyout.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Sandoval, the Red Sox designated catcher Ryan Lavarnway for assignment. The catcher/first baseman played nine games for the Red Sox in 2014 and went 0-for-10. In 97 career games in the majors, Lavarnway has a .201/.249/.315 batting line with five home runs.

Sandoval said he’s excited to join new teammate Hanley Ramirez as part of the Red Sox team that will take the field in 2015.

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“We are good friends, we have a good relationship,” Sandoval said of Ramirez. “We had dinner last night. Now being on the same team is going to be fun. He’s funny. He loves his teammates.”

Ramirez is expected to be introduced to the media at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Sandoval said he spoke with David Ortiz this week about joining team, but the two did not have dinner together.

He doesn’t want to entertain any thoughts of taking over for Ortiz as the Sox DH either.

“No. I want to prove myself that I can be a third baseman on this team for the rest of my career,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to work through with this organization right now… I want to be a better defensive player, prove that I can play third base.”

The switch-hitting Panda said he’s looking forward to playing at Fenway Park.

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“I live for that so bad,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy this ballpark. It was one of the things I was thinking about in my decision.”

Naturally Sandoval was asked about his large frame and addressed the questions that come up about people having concerns for his health and the potential for weight gain as he gets older.

“I don’t take it personally,” Sandoval said. “I just take advice given to me. They want me to be a better player, they want me to show I can be a better player for them, so I learned a lot of things from that. So, now in my new organization I’m going to show that I can do those things, that I’m mature, and I’m grown enough for those challenges.”

Although he has an offseason training regimen in place, Sandoval said he’ll meet with the Red Sox staff to see what workout plan they have in mind for him.

“I want to be ready,” Sandoval said. “That’s why I have my training. I want to work on those things, be ready out there, play third base for five years, six years… and I’m going to be out there and making sure I’m taking care of all those things to play third base.”

Don’t think for a second that the Red Sox aren’t going to take advantage of the Panda craze that swept San Francisco. They had a Panda-headed mascot ready and waiting for photo ops after the Sandoval presser.

Sandoval said although the Kung Fu Panda nickname started in San Francisco, it comes with him as part of the package.

“Ben didn’t sign one guy,” Sandoval said. “It was a two-part deal. Me and the Panda.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell is pleased to have the bats of Sandoval and Ramirez in the lineup next season.

“We’ve made two very good additions, no doubt, particularly before you’d sense the free agent market really coming into shape,” Farrell said. “[Cherington] has done a great job of being able to add these two players before Thanksgiving. When you consider Hanley in left, Yoenis [Cespedes] in either center or right, you begin to look at power bats in a number of different positions and this is a really deep lineup as we stand today.”

The 28-year-old Sandoval played his first seven years in the major leagues with the San Francisco Giants, winning World Series championships in all three trips to the postseason: 2010, 2012, and 2014.

While he appreciates the championships in San Francisco, he said he’s looking forward to starting a new chapter in his career in Boston.

“He has been with us through some of the greatest moments in San Francisco Giants history — including all three World Series championships,” the Giants said via a statement on Monday. “We will never forget his World Series MVP performance in 2012 and his numerous contributions to the 2014 championship. His connection with Giants fans — young and old — is truly special, and he will be greatly missed. We wish him nothing but the best in Boston.”

Last season, Sandoval batted .279 with 26 doubles, three triples,16 home runs, and 73 RBI in a career-high 157 regular season games and 153 starts. He was the ninth-hardest National Leaguer to strike out.

Sandoval, who will wear No. 48, helped the Giants to the 2014 World Series title, batting .366 with seven doubles, five RBI, and five walks in 17 postseason games. His 26 hits set the all-time record for a single postseason.

The native of Carabobo, Venezuela has reached base safely in 36 of his 39 career postseason games for a .344 batting average (53-for-154), best in major league history among those with at least 150 postseason plate appearances.

Only David Ortiz (.455) has a higher World Series batting average than Sandoval (.426) among those with at least 50 plate appearances in the Fall Classic. Sandoval was named MVP of the 2012 World Series, in which he hit .500 (8-for-16) in the Giants’ four-game sweep of the Tigers.

Originally signed by the Giants as an international free agent in 2003, he made his big league debut with 41 games in 2008. Beginning with his first full big league season in 2009, when he ranked second in the National League with a .330 average, Sandoval leads all NL switch-hitters with 896 hits and 303 extra-base hits. He was named an All-Star in back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012.

In his career, Sandoval owns a .304/.357/.493 batting line against right-handed pitchers, including a .317 average against righties in 2014 that ranked fourth among National Leaguers.

This past season, he placed third among NL third basemen with a .971 fielding percentage and posted a career-long 73-game errorless streak from May 25-August 22.

Sandoval’s lifetime .960 fielding percentage at third base ranks third among active major league third basemen with least 750 games at the position. He has also played first base (63 games, 55 starts) and catcher (14 games, 12 starts) in his big league career.

Information provided by the Boston Red Sox was used in this report.

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