Pablo Sandoval Benched! Travis Shaw is the Red Sox’ starting third baseman

Associated Press

This has been telegraphed for a couple of weeks now, but I have to admit that I didn’t think John Farrell would actually do it: Pablo Sandoval has been benched. Travis Shaw is the starting third baseman for the Boston Red Sox.

A few weeks ago Dave Dombrowski said that Farrell had a free hand to put the best players on the field, regardless of contractual status. It’s been pretty clear this spring that Shaw has been the better player, especially defensively. Sandoval’s defense was always suspect, but his conditioning, Farrell noted, has caused his range and agility to suffer even more than it had in the past. Meanwhile Shaw, though primarily a first baseman in his rookie season, was a third baseman in college and has handled the position ably this spring training.

As for offense, Shaw hit 13 homers in 65 games last year for the Sox and is a .261/.359/.445 hitter in over 500 minor league games. He started off hot this spring but is slumping of late. Sandoval is a better hitter than Shaw when he’s at his best, but whether he’s at his best is the issue here. He had a terrible year at the plate in Boston last season. This spring he is 10-for-39 with two homers.

Not that spring stats are what led to this move. This seems based on defense and approach first and, secondarily, may very well be something of an exercise in message-sending to Sandoval. The Red Sox may have signed him to a five-year, $95 million contract before last season, but that doesn’t guarantee his playing time. If this motivates him — and if Shaw doesn’t Wally Pipp him — Sandoval will either be back at third at some point or, possibly, at DH next year after David Ortiz is gone. If it doesn’t, the Sox are making it quite plain that they will walk away from a bad deal made by the previous front office administration.

In the meantime: welcome to the pine, Kung-Fu Panda.


Padres claim 2-time All-Star catcher Gary Sánchez off waivers from Mets

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO — The scuffling San Diego Padres claimed catcher Gary Sánchez off waivers from the New York Mets.

The two-time All-Star was designated for assignment after playing in three games for the Mets. He went 1 for 6 with three strikeouts and an RBI, looking shaky at times behind the plate.

With the disappointing Padres (24-29) getting meager offensive production at catcher, they hope Sánchez can provide a boost. Austin Nola is batting .131 with three extra-base hits and a paltry .434 OPS in 39 games. His part-time platoon partner, second-stringer Brett Sullivan, is hitting .170 with four extra-base hits and a .482 OPS in 21 games since getting called up from the minors April 16.

Luis Campusano has been on the injured list since April 17 and is expected to be sidelined until around the All-Star break following left thumb surgery.

San Diego is responsible for just over $1 million in salary for Sánchez after assuming his $1.5 million, one-year contract.

The star-studded Padres have lost seven of 11 and are 3-3 on a nine-game East Coast trip. They open a three-game series at Miami.

San Diego becomes the third National League team to take a close look at the 30-year-old Sánchez this season. He spent time in the minors with San Francisco before getting released May 2 and signing a minor league contract a week later with the Mets, who were minus a couple of injured catchers at the time.

After hitting well in a short stint at Triple-A Syracuse, he was promoted to the big leagues May 19. When the Mets reinstated catcher Tomás Nido from the injured list last week, Sánchez was cut.

Sánchez’s best seasons came early in his career with the New York Yankees, where he was runner-up in 2016 AL Rookie of the Year voting and made the AL All-Star team in 2017 and 2019.

He was traded to Minnesota before the 2022 season and batted .205 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 128 games last year.

With the Padres, Sánchez could also be a candidate for at-bats at designated hitter, where 42-year-old Nelson Cruz is batting .245 with three homers, 16 RBIs and a .670 OPS, and 37-year-old Matt Carpenter is hitting .174 with four homers, 21 RBIs and a .652 OPS.