After emerging into a fan favorite during the years he played for the San Francisco Giants, former All-Star third basemen and World Series hero Pablo Sandoval, has had an especially rough two years since he left the Giants to play for the Boston Red Sox.

Sandoval has 'new fire' inside

But off-season moves this year by the Red Sox, and what Sandoval says is a new “fire” inside him, are possibly telltale signs “The Panda,” as he was affectionately called in his happier San Francisco days, may still be able to win the hearts of the notoriously passionate Red Sox fans -- not to mention get his old job back.

Sandoval seemed to be on the top of the world in the fall of 2014. A little more than three weeks after he and other Giants players were cheered by thousands of adoring fans as they rode down San Francisco’s Market Street during the Giants World Series victory parade, Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million contract to play for the Red Sox.

His signing by the Red Sox was met with great fanfare and gushing exuberance throughout New England. But come the new season that exuberance and welcoming enthusiasm was replaced by the sounds of hostile boos coming from Red Sox fans and rancorous criticism on Boston’s sports talk shows as Sandoval’s first year playing in Boston was mostly a bust. Posting only a .245 batting average in 2015 and knocking only 10 home runs out of ‘friendly Fenway,” as it’s called by the hometown crowd, The Panda was no fan favorite.

Instead of being considered adorable, the Panda was castigated for his hitting and inconsistent fielding. Oh, and then there was his ongoing weight problem, along with what Boston fans considered his equally bloated contract.

Even before the 2016 season started things would continue to go downhill for Sandoval.

Though reports were that he had been working out throughout the winter, he was fat-shamed when he showed up in spring training with a rather expansive belly. And no feelings were spared when a photo made the rounds of the Boston sports media and on Twitter of an obvious potbelly protruding from Sandoval's jersey as he made a throw during an early spring training workout.

And for Sandoval, things just got worse. At the end of spring training the two-time All-Star and World Series MVP would lose his job to Travis Shaw, a 25-year-old, who had only played in the big leagues for about three months. Then in early May it was announced that Sandoval -- who had only played eleven innings for the season -- would require season-ending surgery.

Photo shows Sandoval slim, toned

But suddenly, things are looking up for Sandoval. A recent photo posted on Twitter and making the rounds in the Boston media shows a muscular and toned Panda. He also posted a Tweet saying, "Things definitely happen for a reason." [The surgery and rehab process] have helped revitalize that fire in me to win again."

Also this week, the young third basemen who put him out of work, Travis Shaw, was traded away to the Milwaukee Brewers.

With the move, it appears the Red Sox brass are planning on having Sandoval back in the lineup this season.

“Well, it does show where we have faith in how he has worked hard, and he's been a good player in the past,” Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations for the Red Sox, said in a press conference during baseball’s winter meetings that was posted on MLB.com. Still, Dombrowski said there were no guarantees for Sandoval, noting the decision would be left up to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

“I think the main thing that Pablo has done is put himself back in tremendous physical condition,” Farrell said at the same press conference. “We're not asking for Pablo to be anything more than he was prior to signing him, and that is a very good, everyday Major League player.”

Still, Farrell added, “He’s got to go back out and earn it.”

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