***UPDATE*** Click below for a video from “Operation Panda” Camp:
SCOTTSDALE — Pablo Sandoval strips down to his shorts and steps on the scale inside the gym at the Giants’ minor-league complex. It is Wednesday, weigh-in day.
“Five pounds!” he says, his face lighting up. He high-fives Giants conditioning and strength coach Ben Potenziano and Pablo’s 28-year-old brother, Michael.
It is Day 11 of Sandoval’s personal conditioning camp – a three-week project Potenziano and head trainer Dave Groeschner have dubbed “Operation Panda.” They even had T-shirts printed up with the words “Operation Panda: Discipline-Hard Work -Perseverance.”
“We’ve never had a player do anything like this – ever,” Groeschner says of the one-man camp.
The Sandoval brothers are now on side-by-side stationary bikes for 40 minutes of cardio. They’ll follow that with 12 minutes on the treadmill at 3.5 mph and a 6 percent incline. Then they’ll do weight training, then exercises to improve balance and strengthen core muscles, then throwing or batting practice, and finally another 40 minutes of cardio on the elliptical machine.
“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.
There is no going out to restaurants or bars. The strongest beverage in Sandoval’s diet right now is green tea. Mostly he drinks water – 12 to 15 bottles a day. In the evening, after eating their prepared meals, the Sandoval brothers take a walk on a bike path near their rented apartment or play basketball to keep their metabolism up.
With the five pounds he lost during the past week, Sandoval has lost 10 pounds so far, on his way toward his goal of slimming down and building muscle for the 2010 season. (Michael is participating in every workout, working right alongside his brother, and he has lost 10 pounds, too.)
“I love this team and the way they treat me,” Sandoval says later in the afternoon, after he finishes about 10 minutes of alternating between warm and cold tubs to minimize muscle soreness.
“The fans, I love them and want them to know I’ll always be the guy who’s working hard. I know I have to lose weight so I can play this game for a long time.”
After their workout and time in the tubs, Pablo and Michael make their way to the Giants’ conference room, where they heat up their crab and spinach chowder and eat the white bean and arugula salad and the five strawberries they are allotted for dessert.
Potenziano slaps Pablo on the back and says, “Run the Embarcadero next week, right?”
Potenziano and Groeschner are going to San Francisco next week to run the winter conditioning camp for rookies, so Pablo is tagging along to continue his workout regimen.
Sandoval crinkles his nose. “Too cold!”
“You’re going to run,” Potenziano says, smiling. Pablo delights in giving Potenziano a hard time.
Pablo shakes his head and laughs. “No chance!”
Tomorrow they’re tackling Camelback Mountain, nearly a mile of trails straight up. That will make the Embarcadero seem like a walk in the park.
When lunch is finished, Pablo and Michael trudge out the door. It’s after 3.
“Long day,” Pablo says. “Time to take a nap.”
Pictures from Camelback Mountain, Thursday, November 12:
From left to right: Ben Potenziano (conditioning and strength coach), Ryan Garko, Mike Sandoval, Pablo Sandoval, Dave Groeshner (head trainer), Front: Todd Jennings (minor league catcher)