SAN FRANCISCO — The first two steps of Pablo Sandoval’s second stint in San Francisco were positive.
Sandoval showed up to AT&T Park on Saturday in decent shape, the kind that will allow him to go straight to the minors instead of spending a few weeks cutting pounds. He also said the right things, apologizing to fans for comments made in the months and year after he left the Giants for supposedly greener pastures.
“I learned my lesson,” Sandoval said a few seconds after sitting down with reporters. “I made a lot of mistakes.”
Sandoval said he also needed to apologize to former teammates, many of whom have not forgotten a Bleacher Report article from Sandoval’s first spring with the Red Sox.
Back then, Sandoval told Scott Miller the decision to leave San Francisco was “not hard at all.” On Saturday, he said there was simply a “miscommunication.”
Back then, Sandoval said, “I knew early in spring training last year I was going to leave.” On Saturday, he claimed that he would have come and said he’s “excited, excited to be back … I’m thankful to the Giants.”
Back then, Sandoval said he didn’t miss his former teammates. "Only Bochy," he told Bleacher Report. "I love Boch. He's like my dad. He's the only guy that I miss. And Hunter Pence. Just those guys.” On Saturday, Sandoval said, “If I mentioned a lot of people, it was going to be the whole roster … Hunter was like my brother and Bochy was like my dad.”
It will be up to the players and team employees to decide how they really feel three years later. Some, most notably Pence, have been effusive in their praise of the move. Others have been more guarded, and some have grumbled. And make no mistake about it, there are executives at high levels of the organization who do not agree with a reunion. Why do it, then?
“You look at it as a free look at a player who has done some good things in this game and has the talent to hit baseball,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Sometimes a change of scenery can get a player back to the player he was and he was pretty good here. This allows you to take a look and make a call if you think he can help you or not. There’s no guarantee.”
Bochy called it a “win-win” situation and said this was not a marketing move, but it certainly won’t hurt the organization’s affiliates. Sandoval will DH for the San Jose Giants on Saturday and join Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday. He is expected to get at least 40-50 at-bats before the Giants make a decision.
Sandoval said his shoulder, which ended his 2016 season, is healthy, and he has resumed switch-hitting. It has been three years since he has been a productive big leaguer, but he is still just 30 years old.
“I have to prove a lot of things,” Sandoval said. “I hope to be back and doing the best (I can).”
The Giants did not guarantee a return to the big leagues, but the coast is clearing up. Eduardo Nuñez, the incumbent at third, is Bobby Evans’ best trade chip and could be gone by August 1. Christian Arroyo is on the minor league disabled list. Ryder Jones will play all over the field with Sandoval returning to Sacramento. Jae-gyun Hwang was optioned back to Triple-A on Saturday and faces an uncertain future in the organization.
The history of this organization says that if Sandoval shows anything at all, he will be back at AT&T Park before the season is up. At that point, he’ll have to sit down with some teammates and coaches and possibly explain himself. There is more to this than an article written three years ago. It was an open secret that Sandoval was ready to move on, and he had some fun waving goodbye to fans at the 2014 parade. If and when he does return, Sandoval will hope for the best from a fan base that is divided on his return. He did his part to heal some wounds Saturday, signing autographs on his way out of the park.
For now, Sandoval said he’s ready for his second chance.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “I’m happy to be back.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Three years after departing for what he thought would be a better fit, Pablo Sandoval has returned.
The third baseman, a key cog in the dynasty the Giants built earlier this decade, re-signed with the organization on a minor league deal on Saturday morning. Sandoval will join Class-A San Jose immediately and move on to Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday. He was in the AT&T Park clubhouse on Saturday to take a physical.
Sandoval, now 30 years old, spent the first seven years of his career in San Francisco, batting .294 with 106 homers amid battles with his weight and inconsistency. The Giants never quite got on the same page with Sandoval when it came to his conditioning, and he alternated between being a valued power hitter in the middle of their lineup and sitting on the verge of being replaced.
In Boston, there were no such highs. Sandoval played just 161 games over three seasons, batting .237 with 14 homers, and playing poor defense. He posted a negative Wins Above Replacement in all three seasons with the Red Sox and he was designated for assignment last week. Sandoval twice cleared waivers, so the Red Sox are on the hook for the remainder of a five-year, $95 million contract.
The Giants have not yet commented publicly about Sandoval, citing tampering rules. The view from team employees seems to be that there’s little risk in signing a former fan favorite who comes essentially for free. With Christian Arroyo on the disabled list, Sandoval will not be blocking one of the organization’s top prospects, although you can argue that a last-place team would be better served looking at players like Ryder Jones.
Most players were guarded in their comments this week. Hunter Pence, the lone player mentioned in a positive light by Sandoval in a scathing article after his departure, said he is excited for a reunion. Others offered some version of, “If he helps us win, so be it.”
It’s unclear if Sandoval can still do that, and multiple team officials, speaking on background this week, said it’s a coin flip whether Sandoval ever returns to the majors. Still, the Giants are willing to flip that coin, and their history says they don't sign veterans and leave them in the minors.