On Saturday, it became official.
Sandoval was promoted to the major league roster to take the place of injured first baseman Brandon Belt, and he was thrown directly into Bruce Bochy’s lineup as the cleanup hitter. That speaks more to the Giants lack of offensive firepower than anything Sandoval has done the past two seasons. Nonetheless it set the stage for his emotional return.
The whole dynamic was pretty interesting. AT&T Park was already in a festive mood as the Giants celebrated their division championship team from 1997. Perhaps that positive feeling favored Sandoval, as he was greeted with a mostly positive reaction from the crowd.
Here's the reintroduction of Pablo Sandoval at AT&T Park: a few boos, but mostly cheers, and then a groundout. pic.twitter.com/sjDSy8TstR
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) August 6, 2017
Yeah, there were some audible boos in there too. No doubt they are holdouts from Sandoval’s less than cordial exit 2 1/2 years ago. But it had to be more positive than Sandoval was anticipating.
As for his contributions, Sandoval actually got a Giants rally started when he led off the seventh inning with a double. That was his only hit in three plate appearances, but it sparked a three-run rally. In the next inning, Sandoval was pinch-hit for by Buster Posey, who knocked in the tying run. The Giants went on to defeat the D-Backs 5-4 in 10 innings.
The circumstances surrounding Sandoval’s return were not ideal. Belt was placed on the seven-day concussion DL on Saturday after being hit in the helmet with a pitch during Friday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The unfortunate reality in sports is that the show must go on. An injury to one player means an opportunity for another, and though Sandoval would have preferred his opportunity to come any other way, there’s no doubt he’ll be looking to take advantage.
Now that his Boston stint has failed — he was released less than three years into a five-year, $95 million contract, leaving the Red Sox on the hook for the remaining $49.5 million owed — there were few options available for Sandoval to consider, and perhaps fewer realistic places that could offer such a quick opportunity at the major league level.
To return to the Giants, Sandoval was forced to apologize and rebuild a bridge he had blown up when he left following the 2014 season. At the time, Sandoval stated that the team had disrespected him during contract negotiations leading up to his departure. In his apology, Sandoval said he “always loved and appreciated the Giants organization” and had “learned his lesson” following his bitter departure.
Sandoval hit just .212 in 99 at-bats for Boston this season. He hasn’t fared much better during his minor league stint, hitting .217 over 32 games between Triple-A and High-A. Perhaps a return to San Francisco will help rejuvenate his career, but it’s going to be up to Sandoval himself to prove he belongs.
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