Pablo Sandoval

Why Sandoval attempting MLB comeback in Giants spring training

NBC Universal, Inc.

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 that he looked like he was just about in the best shape of his life. He started laughing.

"There's no stress," he explained. "I don't have to worry about striking out anymore."

Six months later, Sandoval is inviting that stress back into his life. And he's thrilled to be doing it. 

Sandoval officially joined Giants camp on Monday morning, the first full-squad day at Scottsdale Stadium. He is in camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor league deal, but he was clear that this is not a Sergio Romo situation. Sandoval is not here for a goodbye appearance during the Bay Bridge Series, and he said Monday that he's not thinking about retirement. 

"I came here to fight for a spot," he said. 

At the moment, the Giants don't have one. A long time switch-hitter, Sandoval will only bat left-handed, and he would seem to be limited to first base and DH, although he is much slimmer than in the days when he regularly played third base. 

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

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

Those are details for six weeks from now. On Monday, Sandoval simply made it clear that he wasn't ready to hang them up. He has always loved hitting, and he still wants to do it. 

"It's amazing. It's amazing. The time I was out, I missed it a lot," he said. "When you love baseball and the only thing you do is this, you're going to miss it when you're out."

It's been three years since Sandoval has played in the big leagues, and he had just a .645 OPS during that last stint with the Atlanta Braves. Since then, Sandoval has played in Mexico and Dubai, the latter run coming in part because of a conversation Sandoval had shortly before he visited Oracle Park.

Liam Sandoval is now eight years old and falling in love with the game like his father once did. The two were hitting last August when Liam told his dad that it looked like he could still play. When the games in Dubai with other former big leaguers went well, the older Sandoval started to really believe, too. 

"I came back (to Florida) and I took it more seriously," he said. 

Sandoval started making it clear to Giants employees that he wanted to attempt a comeback. That led to a no-risk tryout, and it certainly added some life to a young clubhouse. 

Sandoval is often heard before he is seen, and by adding Soler and Sandoval on back-to-back days, the Giants definitely have a more energetic group. That could pay off even if the spring comeback falls short on the field. Sandoval said he intends to mentor young hitters like Marco Luciano and Luis Matos, a fellow Venezuelan who grew up watching the Panda. 

At 37, Sandoval is closer to the coaching staff than most of the players. He actually did play with one of the coaches, winning a title in 2010 with new hitting coach Pat Burrell. Asked if he wants to be a coach himself one day, Sandoval smiled and said his focus is still on hitting and attempting what would be a very improbable comeback.

The Giants already have 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 work out. Seven years later, and 18 years after he first appeared at Scottsdale Stadium, Sandoval is ready to give it another shot.

"It's not going to be easy. It's a big challenge," he said. "I've been through this before, but this one will be more special."

Download and follow the Giants Talk Podcast

Contact Us