Sandoval upbeat, excited, embraced by fans in return

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Sandoval upbeat, excited, embraced by fans in return

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SAN FRANCISCO No matter what controversy PabloSandoval might face off the field or how many pounds he packs on, the Giantsknow they are a better team with his bat in the lineup.

Their fans understand it, too.

Sandoval returned from the disabled list on Saturday to anovation that was loud, and by all indications, positive.

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He made all the plays at third base, survived a scare on aninside fastball that nearly hit his repaired left hand, and whistled an RBIsingle up the middle in the seventh inning.

And he was all smiles after the game, grateful for thechance to play in the big leagues again after a six-week absence and evengrateful for the scolding that Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave him about hisconditioning.

Yeah, yeah, Im excited he told me those things, said Sandoval, who received a lecture prior to the game. I want to work hard to get in shape. We have a great manager. He givesyou advice to work hard to be a better player. He told me, You have thetalent. Youve got to show it. Ill keep doing my routine Ive been doing forthe last couple weeks.

Off the field, the last few weeks have been anything butroutine for Sandoval. He remains under investigation by the Santa Cruz CountySheriffs Department and faces possible sexual assault charges stemming from anincident at a seaside resort June 1. Investigators interviewed Sandoval on thatday with his attorney present; they have not conducted subsequent interviewswith him, Deputy April Skalland said.

RELATED: Sandoval's alleged victim a 212-year-old SC woman

Detectives expect to wrap up the investigationin another two weeks and submit a recommendation to the district attorneysoffice. He does not currently face charges, nor has he been arrested.

Despite the controversy, Sandoval experienced little to no backlash from fans in hisreturn. Fans of all ages continued to wear Panda hats and cheer each of hisat-bats.

When youve got fans like that supporting you every day,its exciting, Sandoval said. I go to the field every day and try to help myteam.

Sandoval was his usual, upbeat, aggressive self at the plate. He took a mighty cut at the first pitch from ScottFeldman and eventually flied out to center field in his first at-bat. He hittwo more fly outs before hitting an RBI single in the seventh inning.

The hit came one pitch after Sandoval got brushed back by afastball from Koji Uehara; the pitch hit Sandovals bat near his left hand,which he immediately began shaking. He said the vibrations didnt feel good,but he was OK.

Good, good. It doesnt bother me, said Sandoval, whobatted from the left side each time but said hes ready to hit lefties, too. Ican swing hard right-handed.

Sandoval missed seven weeks last season following his right hamate fracture. He missed six weeks this time after surgery to remove the same bone in his left hand.

Bochy said he was pleased with Sandovals performance in hisfirst game back.

He did a nice job at third base, Bochy said. He was alittle anxious at the plate early. He was getting himself out. He shortened upand got a hit. Thats usually the case when guys come back. Theyve got to slowit down. I thought he had a good batting practice. I thought itd take a gamefor him (to slow down). He looked good.

Said Sandoval: Its one month to come back. You want to doeverything in one at-bat, in one play. The last at-bat, I just try to calm downmyself.

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

TOKYO -- Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani says he could move to the major leagues after the 2017 season.

The 22-year-old right-hander, who has also put up big numbers at the plate, signed a $2.37 million contract for next season with the Nippon Ham Fighters on Monday.

Otani will not become eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season and will need the Fighters' approval to negotiate with a major league club through the posting system before that time.

He says "we discussed the possibility of me going. ... The club will respect my wishes whenever I decide I want to go."

Otani went 10-4 as a pitcher and batted .322 with a career-high 22 home runs this season for the Fighters.

New rules in MLB's collective bargaining agreement make it more difficult for players like Otani to get paid big bucks right away. But there is a definite curiosity about his abilities, even from those who haven't seen him play much.

"I don't know which side you're worried about more: his ability to pitch or hit," former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Hopefully he stays healthy because he's an addition whatever league he winds up with, whether he stays in Japan or comes to the U.S. he's certainly going to be an exciting player for people to look forward to watching."

Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was reluctant to talk about Otani because he's under contract in Japan. But he's intrigued about Otani's ability to pitch and hit.

"We have reports on him," Dombrowski said. "Do I think a player could be a two-way player? Yeah, it could happen. It is very difficult? Yes. But I'm not saying that there's not a player out there that can't do that because some of them are rare, rare guys. Babe Ruth could do it. He was pretty good. So it can be done."

Report: Giants 'among teams that have asked' about lefty reliever Howell

Report: Giants 'among teams that have asked' about lefty reliever Howell

The Giants added a huge piece to their bullpen Monday by signing closer Mark Melancon to a four-year deal. While much of the bullpen is complete, San Francisco's front office is reportedly keeping an open mind with a familiar reliever. 

San Francisco has reportedly asked about lefty reliever J.P. Howell, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. Howell, who turns 34 in April, spent the last four seasons as a Giants rival with the Dodgers.

Last season coming out of the Dodgers' bullpen, Howell tossed 50.2 innings pitched and ended with a 1-1 record and 4.09 ERA. The year before, Howell posted a career-low 1.43 ERA. 

In just 13 appearances out of the bullpen -- 10.2 innings pitched -- Howell has struggled in his career at AT&T Park. The lefty has a 6.75 ERA in San Francisco, to go along with an 0-1 record. 

As a whole, the Giants' bullpen finished the 2016 regular season with a 25-24 record. The group's 3.65 ERA ranked ninth in the National League. 

Howell is seeking a one-year deal, according to Olney.