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.
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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.