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Red Sox name Travis Shaw the starting third baseman

Travis Shaw beat out Pablo Sandoval for the starting job at third base.AP

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was only 16 months ago that the Red Sox outbid two other teams for the right to pay third baseman Pablo Sandoval $95 million over five years.

“We’re really looking forward to having him in a Red Sox uniform in the middle of our lineup for years to come,” general manager Ben Cherington said at the time.

Cherington is out of baseball, having resigned last summer. And now Sandoval is out of a job, too.

Travis Shaw is the new third baseman, manager John Farrell deciding on Thursday to put Sandoval and his $17 million salary on the bench.

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“For right now, to start the season, feel this is the best for our team, to go with this alignment,” Farrell said after meeting with both players.

Sandoval played poorly last season and was thoroughly outplayed by Shaw throughout spring training. But the decision was atypical given Sandoval’s contract, age (29), and career accomplishments.

“My focus is on the guys that are in uniform, not what’s attached to them or what their contract states,” Farrell said. “We’re all about evaluating and what’s best for our team. Not so much the better player but what’s best for our team at the moment and for us to begin the season.”

The Red Sox also benched left fielder Rusney Castillo earlier this week. He has a $10.5 million salary this season.

“It’s a real surprise,” David Ortiz said. “You would say that Panda is the starting third baseman. He’s been working extremely hard this spring training.

“I gave him the advice to keep working.”

Farrell said his decision was based on what both players showed last season and not simply on their performance in spring training. Director of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he encouraged Farrell to select the lineup as he saw fit.

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Sandoval hit .245 with only 10 home runs and a .658 OPS in 2015. He drove in only 47 runs and ranked as one of the worst defensive players in the game.

Spring training wasn’t much better. Sandoval had a .767 OPS though 16 games and committed four errors. He also reported in what appeared to be poor condition, although team officials insisted otherwise.

Shaw, 25, hit .270 with 13 homers and an .813 OPS in 65 games as a rookie last season. He followed that up with an .886 OPS through 20 spring training games.

The Red Sox open the season in Cleveland on Monday. Shaw, an Ohio native, will have a large group of family and friends at the game.

“I feel I did what I needed to do this spring to put myself in this position,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to experiencing my first Opening Day. Being able to start on Monday is going to be really exciting. I’m really pumped and looking forward to it.”

Shaw played at Kent State, about 40 minutes south of Cleveland.

“If it’s not in Boston, Cleveland would probably be the second-best place,” he said.

A first baseman for much of his career, Shaw made only five starts at third base in 2015 but showed enough in spring training to displace Sandoval.

“The more we exposed Travis to third base, the defense became really a deciding factor,” Farrell said. “In this case, you have to compare one on one. There’s overall better range and Pablo is well aware of this.”

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Said Shaw, “I’ve believed in myself at third for pretty much my whole career. It’s just kind of taken a while for other people to jump on board. I’m ready and I feel like I’m in a good spot defensively and offensively. I’ll be ready to do whatever I can to help this team win and get out of the gates strong.

For Shaw, who will be paid $515,000 this season, keeping the job is sure to be more difficult than getting it.

“You never know what can happen when the season starts,” he said. “It’s a new start. You have to continue to prove yourself. You’re never done proving yourself in this game.

“I’m not going to take opportunity for granted. I’m going to try to keep my foot on the pedal and run with this. Hopefully it’s mine for a long period of time.”

If Sandoval was angry about his demotion, he hid it well.

“If it’s the right decision to help the team win, I’m going to be happy,” he said. “I’m going to be ready for the bench. I’ll get ready for everything in the season and do my job.

“It’s going to be difficult. I have to be happy and do a great job. It’s still a fantastic spring. There’s always going to be tough battles. Nothing is easy.”

When Sandoval left the San Francisco Giants for the Red Sox, he said he was seeking a new challenge. That is certainly the case now.

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Sandoval is not suited for a reserve role. He is of no use as a pinch runner or defensive replacement and has only 35 career plate appearances as a pinch hitter.

He has 63 games of experience at first base but none since 2012.

“The challenge will be for us to carve out his role,” said Farrell. “To keep him in the flow as best possible. This is a starting point. Pablo understood it.

“It’s going to require the contributions from everyone. He’s got a long history in the big leagues. We’ve got to get it right to where he’s got an opportunity to earn back that job at some point.”

Typically, veteran players are allowed to treat spring training as a time to prepare without concern for their positions. Throughout the offseason and at the start of camp, the Sox identified Sandoval as their starter.

Did Sandoval know from the start of camp he was competing for his job?

“We had conversations during camp that made it clear,” Farrell said.

Said Sandoval, “Every year we have to fight. It’s nothing different. Nothing surprised me.”


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.