Red Sox 3B Pablo Sandoval hoping to bounce back this year

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FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) Pablo Sandoval is trying to regain his form after a rough stretch with the Boston Red Sox.

Sandoval feels he is on the right track, and the Red Sox think so, too.

Sandoval has reclaimed the starting job at third base and appears to be in much better condition than last spring, which has shown on the field. He appears much more nimble and agile.

''It's going good,'' Sandoval said. ''Finally, I'm healthy. That's one of the points I've been looking for. This spring I don't have nothing to bother me. So I'm focused to keep working hard and do my thing out there.''

The 30-year-old Sandoval did not play in Friday night's 4-0 victory against the Baltimore Orioles. But he has appeared in seven games, playing 38 defensive innings, more than any other Red Sox regular. He is 7 for 21 at the plate this spring.

Being healthy gives him a completely different mindset, he said.

''A thousand percent,'' Sandoval said. ''It's one of the things, when you're healthy you are able to do things to help your team. So I feel good about it. I'm going to be ready to play every situation.''

Sandoval broke into the majors in 2008 with San Francisco and helped the Giants win three World Series titles before signing a $95 million, five-year contract with Boston before the 2015 season. He has appeared in just 129 games with the Red Sox, batting.242 with 10 homers.

He lost his starting job to Travis Shaw in spring training a year ago after reporting to camp overweight and in poor condition. He played in just three games last season before undergoing season-ending surgery in May to repair a labrum tear in his left shoulder.

Manager John Farrell is seeing a different side of Sandoval this spring.

''A guy that's having fun playing, a guy that feels good about himself,'' Farrell said. ''And I think there's some renewed confidence in his own abilities. He shows it that way and the aggressive nature he swings the bat. The range has improved with the body composition that he currently has. I see a guy back to the levels that he was prior to signing with the Red Sox.

''I think what stands out most importantly is just his demeanor and how he's going about interacting with his teammates, and that comes from a lot of work that he put in.''

His teammates have noticed the newer version of Sandoval.

''He's been awesome,'' second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. ''I played against him when he was in San Francisco, so I know what kind of player he is and what he brings. He looks just like he did in San Francisco.

''He's been great at third. He's making all the plays, and moving great. He's really good over there, going in on the ball, going to his left, too. He's been awesome.''

After his disappointing first two seasons in Boston, Sandoval knows fan expectations for him will be very high this season. He wants to let his play speak for him.

''Completely professional,'' he said, of how he will deal with those expectations. ''You have to focus on the things you can do, focus on the season, focus on trying to help the team win, try to get the pressure off of you. This is going to be a good match for me. When I get that situation, I need to do it on the field, not with talking. So I'm just going to do my job, try and help my team win games.''