Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval talked to reporters Sunday and insisted, in no uncertain terms, that losing weight wasn't a priority this offseason.
"I did my work to be an athlete on the field," he said, per Sean McAdam of CSN New England. "I didn't try to lose weight."
Sandoval continued, per McAdam:
Sean McAdam @Sean_McAdam
Sandoval: "I didn't weigh-in all winter. I just tried to get better, do my work." Insisted twice that Red Sox didn't ask him to lose weight.2016-2-21 15:17:35
Those claims contradicted remarks from the team's top brass, however, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe noted:
Pete Abraham @PeteAbe
Sandoval claimed he was not asked to lose weight. Dombrowski, Farrell, Lovello all on the record over time saying he was.2016-2-21 14:46:33
A Boston Globe photographer captured an unflattering view of Sandoval, which Jared Carrabis of Barstool Sports shared:
Jared Carrabis @Jared_Carrabis
Welp. Here it is. Via the @BostonGlobe, the picture that everyone's going to be talking about tomorrow. https://t.co/FbWPrm8DfH2016-2-21 21:05:57
Despite the questions about Sandoval's weight, Dave Dombrowski, Red Sox president of baseball operations, is "not concerned" about Sandoval's fitness.
“We were watching him very closely all winter," Dombrowski said, per Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. "We had people with him at least once a week. The goal was for Pablo to get in better overall condition and I feel like he did improve.
“Pablo has the body type he has,” Dombrowski continued. “He’s never going to be svelte. We know that. We wanted him to be prepared for spring training and he is.”
Sandoval, 29, had a disappointing season in 2015, hitting just .245 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in 126 games. That wasn't the production the team was expecting when it signed him to a five-year, $95 million deal before last season.
Sandoval wasn't the only newcomer to disappoint, though, as Hanley Ramirez played poorly in the outfield and hit just .249, although he did add 19 home runs and 53 RBI. And the Red Sox struggled as a team, finishing last in the loaded AL East in a season rife with underachievement.
However, Boston has an intriguing blend of young talent in Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts to combine with veterans like Sandoval, Ramirez, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, so it will be expected to show improvement in 2016. Add David Price to the rotation and Craig Kimbrel to the bullpen, and the Red Sox look like contenders, at least on paper.
But comeback years from players like Sandoval will be a major key to the team's success. Whether Sandoval was actively trying to lose weight or simply trying to stay in shape is irrelevant. What will matter is if the work he did in the offseason translates into far more production than he offered in a disappointing 2015 campaign.
You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.