Panda attacks conditioning program like a jelly donut

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pablo-sandoval-091111-915pm.jpgGood news for San Francisco fans: “Operation Panda” is underway, and if things continue at this pace, the Giants are going to be the biggest winners in the end.

Joan Ryan of the MLB.com blog Inside the Giants Clubhouse reports that budding star Pablo Sandoval has already dropped 10 pounds as he attacks his offseason conditioning program like a jelly donut, even though the season is still nearly five months away.

Head trainer Dave Groeschner said of the one-man camp: “We’ve never had a player do anything like this – ever.”

“There are no guys who show up in November to get ready for the season,” Groeschner says. “But this is something Pablo wanted to do. He knows how important it is for him and for the team that he has the endurance to play every game. And what he’s doing is not easy. It’s an entire life-style change.”

For the first time in his life, Sandoval is lifting weights. He’s eating vegetables. He is meeting every Wednesday while he’s in Scottsdale with a nutrition professor from Arizona State University, who is teaching him about healthy food choices and portion control. He and his brother, who Sandoval brought with him for motivation and support, are eating catered meals – delivered to the Giants complex every morning in a cooler — of low-cal entrees like broiled chicken or salmon, and lots of salads, veggies and fruits.

First of all, I love the term “portion control.” Don’t eat three chickens, Pablo, when one will fill you up just fine.

Secondly, the sloppy, overweight version of Sandoval is already a freak of nature, putting up a .333/.381/.543 line in his first full season while smashing 25 home runs and driving in 90 runs. All of this despite a portly physique (listed at 5-11, 245) and a Guerrero-esque penchant for swinging at anything within reach.

But now the Panda is getting serious. He’s replacing cheeseburgers with carrots, fat with muscle. Be afraid NL West. Be very afraid.

Follow me on Twitter at @bharks. For more baseball news, go to NBCSports.com.

Kris Bryant exits game with sprained right ankle

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The Cubs had a scare on Wednesday night when third baseman Kris Bryant left with an apparent ankle injury. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Nationals catcher Matt Wieters hit a pop up that veered just into foul territory near the third base bag. Bryant caught it but his momentum took him back into fair territory. In doing so, he stepped awkwardly on the third base bag and appeared to twist his ankle. Bryant needed the assistance of manager Joe Maddon and the team trainer to get off the field.

Bryant was diagnosed with a mild ankle sprain, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.

Bryant was 2-for-3 on the night before departing and being replaced by Jeimer Candelario. He’s now hitting .264/.395/.520 with 16 home runs and 32 RBI in 329 plate appearances. Needless to say, the 39-39 Cubs would see their playoff odds hurt immensely if Bryant were to miss a significant amount of time.

Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby

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Hector Gomez reports Twins third baseman Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby, to be held in two weeks at Marlins Park in Miami. So far, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is the only other confirmed participant.

Sano, 24, is having an outstanding season, batting .274/.375/.548 with 18 home runs and 53 RBI in 293 plate appearances. According to MLB’s Statcast, only Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (96.7 MPH) has a higher average exit velocity than Sano (96.4 MPH).

Brian Dozier was the last member of the Twins to participate in the Home Run Derby. In 2014 at Target Field, Dozier failed to make it into the second round after hitting only two home runs. Justin Morneau is the only Twin to have ever won the Home Run Derby, as he beat Josh Hamilton 5-3 in the finals of the 2008 Derby at Yankee Stadium — although Hamilton out-homered him in total 35 to 22.