Giants give Pablo Sandoval three-year contract extension

AP PHOTO/MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZFree-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval has seven days to accept a $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Giants that would keep him with the team for next season.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval showed the San Francisco Giants last year that he’s serious about his conditioning.

The Giants, in turn, showed Sandoval on Tuesday that they’re serious about him.

Sandoval, who rebounded from a down year in 2010 by getting in better shape and then hitting .315 with 23 home runs and 70 RBI, got a three-year contract extension worth a reported $17.5 million. That will gobble up his final three years of arbitration.

Sandoval was a lost soul by the end of the 2010 season as the Giants went on their run to the World Series championship. His average wasn’t that bad (.268), but he was about 40 pounds overweight and was reduced to a part-time player.

After the World Series, general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy said at a press conference that Sandoval might be sent to the minor leagues if he didn’t report to spring training in better shape. He subsequently was put on a strict conditioning program in the offseason and weighed in at 239 pounds, down about 40.

Once the exhibition games began, it was obvious that Sandoval was a new man. He fielded his position with more dexterity, his bat was quicker and he got off to a great start.

But a broken hamate bone sidelined Sandoval in May, and he missed 40 games after undergoing surgery. When returned in June, he picked up where he left off and was so hot, he was chosen as a backup on the National League All-Star team.

Sandoval made $500,000 last season. He had filed for $4.25 million in arbitration, and the Giants offered $3 million.

The Giants didn’t stop there. They also signed right fielder Nate Schierholtz to a one-year, $1.3 million deal, following up deals earlier this week with outfielder Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan and reliever Santiago Casilla.

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