FORT MYERS, Fla. — When Red Sox strength and conditioning coach Pat Sandora told the early arrivals to spring training to get in line for some conditioning drills Tuesday morning, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez were right next to each other.
It has been that way since they signed with the Red Sox a few hours apart in late November. Ramirez and Sandoval have been linked as keys to the coming season and crucial pieces of a rebuilt lineup. The two even exchange messages and photos on Instagram and Twitter.
"We are good friends," said Sandoval. "We've known each other for a long time. We're joking around a lot."
Until this season, Ramirez and Sandoval had never been teammates. They have been tight since 2009 when Ramirez won the National League batting title and Sandoval finished second. In recent years the discussion of one day playing together had come up.
Now it will happen in Boston with Sandoval at third base and Ramirez behind him in left field.
"We talked about it every time he got to third or I got to second," said Sandoval. "I wanted to play with him one day. That opportunity to play together for four years, it's going to be interesting all the fun we're going to have."
Ramirez wanted to return to Boston as a free agent regardless of Sandoval's decision. That was a bonus.
"A great hitter, everybody knows that," Ramirez said. "Once I found out [the Red Sox] could get him, I knew it would be something special."
Sandoval, who lives in Miami, stopped by Fenway South earlier this month to get situated. On Tuesday, he showed up ready to work and took batting practice before joining the infield drills conducted by coach Brian Butterfield.
Sandoval is still getting to know his new teammates but stepped in several times to offer advice to Garin Cecchini and Brock Holt.
"I'm excited," he said. "I'm excited to be here early in camp. We're having fun out there."
Sandoval played all seven seasons of his career with the San Francisco Giants before signing a five-year, $95 million deal with the Red Sox. He helped the Giants win three World Series and became a fan favorite.
Now comes a new team, a new market, and a new league.
"It's a learning process right now," he said. "You have to make adjustments and I'll get the adjustments in spring training. You get the opportunity to play those guys you face in the league.
"It's a big challenge, especially when you come from a team that had good chemistry, and this is my big challenge. I would love to take the team to how many World Series that I can."
A switch hitter, Sandoval hit .317 from the left side last season and only .199 righthanded. He spent the winter working on that imbalance.
"I've been working all offseason on my righthanded swing," he said. "I just started hitting lefthanded last week. This is going to be a good challenge for me."
Sandoval, who hit .270 righthanded in 2013, has had more power from the left side throughout his career, which should serve him well at Fenway Park.
Sandoval's older brother, Michael, attended Tuesday's workout and said he would be around for the entire season. Like Ramirez, Sandoval does not travel alone.
Michael Sandoval, 33, played parts of nine seasons in the minors before retiring in 2010. His career included half a season with the independent Brockton Rox in 2004.
"Pablo is excited to be here," said Michael Sandoval, who helps train his brother. "He wanted a challenge like this. He has been working hard this winter to get ready."
On that topic, it's a matter of perspective. Sandoval is hefty but no more so than he was last fall when he hit .366 with an .888 OPS in the postseason for the World Series champion Giants.
On Tuesday, he looked pretty much the same as he did last fall. The bat speed and quick feet at third base were the same, too.
"Lets face it, Pablo is going to look like Pablo," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said last month. "We know what kind of player he is."
. . .
Lefthander Henry Owens, sporting a ponytail, was one of the arrivals in camp . . . Hall of Famer Jim Rice, a camp instructor, stopped by after a round of golf . . . The Sox have six catchers on their spring roster but only Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez are here. They have been getting a lot of work in the bullpen . . . Fangraphs.com listed 10 Red Sox on its list of the top 200 prospects. Swihart came in at ninth with Eduardo Rodriguez 23d.