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.

How Yu Darvish tipped his pitches during the World Series

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You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.

Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.

Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.

Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.