SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants rode inspirational clubhouse speeches to a championship in 2012. While floundering in their bid for a repeat, several veterans took the same tact to set the stage for a player who might be the key to this season's title hopes.
A slimmer, more muscular Pablo Sandoval showed off increased range and quickness on a back field at Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday, and afterward said his dramatic offseason weight loss stemmed largely from messages delivered by teammates Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Marco Scutaro and Matt Cain.
"I had to take (their words) seriously because it wasn't one person telling me, it was my team telling me they know what kind of player I am," Sandoval said. "They know that what I was in 2011, the way that I was, that I did a great job out there. There was concern (since then) with the gaining weight, but I put it in my mind that I need to grow up, that I need to take my job seriously.
"That's what I did."
Sandoval wouldn't divulge his weight, but the Giants don't care much about the specifics, anyway; they were simply pleased with the way he's moving. "He's a new man," one coach bellowed as Sandoval sprung to his right to snag a grounder during an early workout.
Posey, whose locker is next to Sandoval's, said the third baseman "looked great."
"With Pablo, you know how much potential he has when he is in good shape," Posey said. "You know what kind of damage he can do. The proof is in what kind of numbers he puts up when he's in shape."
Those numbers actually weren't bad a year ago, even as the 27-year-old was said to have drifted above 280 pounds. Sandoval had a .341 on-base percentage, homered 14 times and posted an OPS of .758, the fourth-highest mark among National League third basemen.
Still, the Giants have come to expect much, much more from a World Series MVP and two-time All-Star. Sandoval was just 22 years old during his first full season in the majors and hit .330 with 25 homers and 90 RBIs.
Cain is one of few current Giants who saw that version of the Panda and felt he could provide a path to past production by explaining his own growth. Years ago, inspired by coaches and veterans such as Matt Morris and Jason Schmidt, Cain began his own process of transformation. He now is known as one of the fittest players in camp.
"We all go through that point in our career where we need to find things that are going to help us push it along and not just be complacent," Cain said. "It's not a bad thing. He has taken it seriously, and he showed up (looking) great. Everybody is proud of him for what he did."
That wasn't the case last season, when teammates privately vented about Sandoval's conditioning and defensive limitations. The late-season conversations with Sandoval, however, were described as positive and motivational, rather than forceful.
"I just told him how good he could be," Pence said. "I just tried to encourage him, and he did it all. He made the decision. He put the work in. Give a lot of credit to Pablo."
Give an assist, also, to his brother Luis, a chef who prepared healthy meals throughout the offseason. The dietary change, along with two-a-day workouts with a personal trainer, set Sandoval straight. Manager Bruce Bochy has for years tried to do that, and you can bet his conversations with Sandoval took on a different tone from the players'.
This time, the message hit home.
"Sometimes (coaches) can be like parents talking to kids -- it's in one ear and out the other," Bochy said. "It's a little different message when it's coming from your peers."
The message now is a simple one: Stay the course.
"This has to become a consistent thing," Bochy said of Sandoval's new lifestyle. "Every day."
If he continues to prove himself, Sandoval could have many more days under the sun at Scottsdale Stadium.
General manager Brian Sabean has made it clear he would like to sign the pending free agent to a long-term deal, something the sides will explore this spring. It's not hard to connect Sandoval's transformation to the riches awaiting him if he hits the open market this fall, but Sandoval said he's not thinking about his status.
"I don't care about the contract," he said. "I care about the team, and this year we're trying to win a championship. People can say whatever they want. I'm going to be open. I don't want to say no (to negotiations), but my concentration is on getting ready for the season. What happens, happens."