April 24, 2024

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Why Pablo Sandoval Is Trying to Make an MLB Comeback in Giants Spring Training – NBC Sports Bay Area and California

Why Pablo Sandoval Is Trying to Make an MLB Comeback in Giants Spring Training – NBC Sports Bay Area and California

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When Pablo Sandoval visited Oracle Park for Mike Murphy's Wall of Fame ceremony last August, he found himself holding court with reporters and Giants officials during batting practice. At one point, Sandoval was told he looked like he was in the best shape of his life. He started laughing.

“There is no pressure,” he explained. “You don't have to worry about going out anymore.”

Six months later, Sandoval brought that stress back into his life. And he's happy to do it.

Sandoval officially joined Giants camp on Monday morning, the team's first full day at Scottsdale Stadium. He's in camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor league deal, but he's been clear that's not Sergio Romo's position. Sandoval isn't here to say goodbye to the Bay Bridge Series, and said Monday he's not thinking about retiring.

“I came here to fight for a place,” he said.

Right now, the Giants don't have one. Sandoval, a long-time hitter, will bat left-handed only, and appears to be limited to first base and DH, though he is much thinner than he was in the days when he regularly played third base.

The Giants have LaMonte Wade Jr. As their starter Wilmer Flores should get most of his at-bats at first. There are others, including Blake Sabol, who could find themselves in the reserve mix at first. Jorge Soler will be the everyday DH.

Sandoval said he's open to whatever the Giants need, and indicated he might be willing to take a job at Triple-A Sacramento if that's his only path at the end of March. It's also possible that Sandoval could catch the attention of another team with an easier path to the big league.

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Those are the details for six weeks from now. On Monday, Sandoval simply made it clear he was not ready to suspend them. He's always loved hitting, and he still wants to do it.

“It's amazing. It's amazing. In the time I was out, I missed it so much,” he said. “When you love baseball and the only thing you do is this, you'll miss it when you're out there.”

It's been three years since Sandoval played in the major leagues, and he only had a .645 OPS during that last stint with the Atlanta Braves. Since then, Sandoval has played in Mexico and Dubai, the latest tour coming about in part because of a conversation Sandoval had shortly before his visit to Oracle Park.

Liam Sandoval is now eight years old and falling in love with the game just as his father once did. The two were dating last August when Liam told his dad that it looked like he could still play. When matches in Dubai with former top players went well, the older Sandoval began to really believe as well.

“I came back (to Florida) and took it seriously,” he said.

Sandoval began making it clear to the Giants staff that he wanted to try to come back. This made for a risk-free experience and certainly added some life to a young club.

Sandoval is often heard before he is seen, and by adding Soler and Sandoval on back-to-back days, the Giants certainly have a more active group. This could pay off even if the spring return is insufficient on the field. Sandoval said he plans to mentor young hitters like Marco Luciano and Luis Matos, a fellow Venezuelan who grew up watching the Pandas.

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At 37 years old, Sandoval is closer to the coaching staff than most players. He did play for one, winning a title in 2010 with new hitting coach Pat Burrell. When asked if he wanted to be a coach one day, Sandoval smiled and said his focus remains on hitting and trying to make a comeback that is not at all likely.

The Giants have already seen Sandoval do it once, having brought him back for a successful run in 2017 after his decision to go to Boston as a free agent didn't pan out. Seven years later, 18 years after making his Scottsdale debut, Sandoval is ready to give it another shot.

“It will not be easy. It is a big challenge,” he said. “I've been through this before, but this will be even more special.”

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