Bruce Bochy blowing smoke with threats of benching Pablo Sandoval

Giants skipper Bruce Bochy caused a stir Monday with his comments regarding Pablo Sandoval and his future at third base.

Bochy said the Giants have not been happy with The Panda’s conditioning since heading on the disabled list in early May.

Bochy went so far to say Sandoval’s playing time at third base could be limited if the Panda were not in good shape.

Bochy had a less-than-cordial discussion with Sandoval on Saturday.

“He’s been told we have enough first basemen,” Bochy said. “That said, hopefully we’re not forced to make a change. That’s in Pablo’s hands.”

The Giants have been very happy with the defense of Joaquin Arias since being moved to third base for the first time in his career during Sandoval’s DL stint. Arias made several nice plays over the weekend that helped the Giants beat the Cubs in close games.

“Being able to make the plays Joaquin has been making, that’s so vital. You look at how important the plays were in (Sunday’s) ball game. That’s part of when (Sandoval) comes back up here. It’s not just the hitting. It’s how he’s playing third base, which is what he’s doing today.”

Defense is vital in low-scoring, tight games. But you know else helps? Runs.

The Giant won three straight over the Cubs, but averaged fewer than three runs in each of those wins.

Since Sandoval went on the DL on May 2, the Giants have hit one home run at AT&T Park … ONE … and that was by Gregor Blanco.

Sandoval ranks second on the Giants in home runs with five, one behind Buster Posey … and Sandoval hasn’t played in almost five weeks.

The Giants have long tried to find ways to keep Sandoval focused and motivated.

They sent him to the bench when his weight became a problem in 2010. But in 2010, as his weight went up, his offensive production went down.

During that offseaosn they threatened Sandoval with a trip to the minors if he didn’t get himself in shape. Sandoval responded by working out in the offseason and improving his conditioning.

Then, he had a solid 2011 season.

When his weight crept up late in 2011 and stayed that way into 2012, the Giants said they weren’t concerned.

But now they’re concerned, and Bochy is trying to get Sandoval back on track. And having just given him a three-year contract for $17 million, the only chip the Giants have to play is playing time.

But it’s a completely empty threat.

There’s no way the Giants can hope to keep things going by winning games 2-1 or 2-0. There’s no way they can keep rolling out an infield filled with .230 hitters.

They need some offense, even if that means putting the Panda’s big butt in the lineup at third base.

Sandoval will play his third game with Class-A San Jose on Monday, getting his first start at third base. If all goes well, Sandoval would join Triple-A’s Fresno on Tuesday.

While early hopes has Sandoval being ready to return for Friday’s opener against the Rangers, being back for the July 12 series opener at home against the Astros seems more likely.

Sandoval is still sore batting from the right side. So keeping Sandoval in Fresno a couple more days makes sense.

Plus, there are fewer good places to eat in Fresno than San Francisco.

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