Sandoval challenges member of media

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It’s early in spring training -- in fact, it’s still officially winter -- but Panda isn’t a hibernating bear.

Riled up by a photo posted by Boston.com’s Steve Silva that showed Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval's protruding belly and inspired teammates to do their own “Panda Pose” photo, Sandoval on Saturday playfully challenged Silva to join him in a workout on the field.

“I love them, I love them,” Sandoval said of the photos. “I’m making fun of it. I’ve put other pictures out there, making fun of it because I want him (Silva) to spend one day with me to see how hard I work. So I’m ready.”

Silva later accepted the challenge and said he’d work out with Sandoval.

“He didn’t address me directly in the Q&A at his locker, but he tapped me on the shoulder on the way out, saying something to the effect of, ‘Come work out with me,’” Silva said. “I had no idea he even knew who I was.”

Sandoval’s weight has been an issue for most of his career. It reached a crescendo after the 2010 season when the Giants started “Operation Panda,” an exercise and weight-loss program designed to get him into better shape after he had reportedly ballooned to 278 pounds.

Asked Saturday how long it would take him to feel like he was in game-ready condition, he said, “I’m ready. I’ve been working out.”

When it was suggested that his tone indicated he was motivated, he said, “I am. I am. Every single day. In and out, bad days, good days. You have to be happy. Nothing you can lose out there.”

How does he handle the critics?

“I love it, I love it,” he said. “Motivate me to work hard, to show up and keep his mouth shut. That’s what I do.”