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Healthy food fuels Giants

Andrew Baggarly San Jose Mercury News

It’s a major league tradition: When an angry manager wants to grab his players’ attention, he makes a mess of the postgame buffet.

If San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy tips the spread this season, fruit and organic vegetables will take flight.

Nutrition was among the many areas that Giants trainers, coaches and front-office executives reevaluated over the winter. As a result, players are ordering from the light menu this season.

The Giants did not retain their short-order cook, who served up cheesesteaks and other greasy fare on command. They replaced him with Joe Day, a 24-year-old chef from San Francisco. And they are consulting with Suzanne Nelson, a registered dietician who is affiliated with the 49ers and the California athletic program.

Nutrition is of particular importance for the Giants this season. Their brightest young pitcher and hitter, Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval, respectively, are a Laurel & Hardy-shaped combination.

Strength and conditioning coach Ben Potenziano stressed diet and exercise to help Sandoval (listed at 5-foot-11 and 245 pounds) shed weight during the spring. And Lincecum (listed at 5-11, 170 pounds) is still underweight after a nasty bout with bronchitis in March.

“Some people live to eat, but Timmy’s a guy who eats to live,” Bochy said. “We’ve helped him out, given him some shakes to help keep weight on. He’s feeling better and eating better.”

And what about the, ahem, portlier players on the club?

“You know, you can have all the willpower in the world. But when you’re hungry, you’re hungry,” Bochy said. “You eat what’s in front of you. My wife will tell you, I’ll get so hungry I’ll eat that fence right there.

“Now these guys have some healthier choices.”

Before Wednesday night’s game, the players could choose from tri-tip wraps with pesto, lettuce chicken cups, salads, fruit, whole-grain bread, tuna salad and chicken salad.

The spread receives four golden forks from Rich Aurilia, who knows of what he eats. Aurilia is an accomplished amateur chef who plans to attend culinary school when his playing days are over.

“I think this kid, Joe, does a great job,” said Aurilia, who often orders takeaway meals, too. “Before the games, you don’t want anything too heavy to slow you down. Why would you want a Thanksgiving dinner?”

Some players do. There’s a “spread crusher” on every team. One former Giant, to everyone’s amazement, routinely devoured a foot-long cheesesteak 10 minutes before batting practice. Former pitcher Kirk Rueter’s appetite was so renowned, teammates thought “Woody” meant he had a hollow leg.

“Woody was always first in line, too,” Aurilia said. “He’d crush the desserts. Seconds? Try thirds and fourths.”

Some visiting clubhouses are stuffed with so many varieties of candy bars, bags of chips and other junk food, it’s like stepping into a 7-Eleven. The Giants swept nearly all of it out the door. They still have ice cream, but it comes in modest, four-ounce cups.

“So far, no complaints,” said trainer Dave Groeschner, who spearheaded the changes. “If we provide good, healthy options that taste good, they shouldn’t complain too much. It’s OK to have comfort food from time to time, but not every night.”

But what if a player hankers for a hot dog? Will he have to walk to the concourse and stand in line?

“No, it’ll just be a healthier hot dog, probably,” Bochy said. “Like we have bacon in the morning, but it’s turkey bacon.”

Don’t be surprised if you see a few discarded Amici’s pizza boxes in the hallway after games, though. You can’t go cold turkey on hot pepperoni. And if Lincecum wants an extra slice, the Giants probably won’t snatch it away.

What’s Timmy’s favorite food?

“Cinnamon rolls,” Lincecum said. “I’m into those. I could eat ’em any time of day. You smell them and think you could crush three. But one’s always enough.”

Moderation is key. His nutritionist would be proud.

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