Pablo Sandoval

Sandoval receives plenty of Giants fan love in spring debut

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval was in the on-deck circle when the top of the sixth inning ended on Sunday at Surprise Stadium. For most of the bottom of the inning, Sandoval paced up and down the visiting dugout, a bat in his right hand. 

Sandoval couldn't have been more excited to return to action, and the fans mirrored that energy, even though the Giants were playing on the road. 

The crowd of about 7,500 was filled with Giants fans, and Sandoval received a loud ovation when he emerged from the clubhouse. The cheers were loudest when he met with Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy just before the game and continued for each of his three plate appearances. 

"It was great," Sandoval said. "I don't doubt these fans' support. They're great and I'm just thankful that I got the opportunity to be back on the field and have the fans cheering for me. They still [have] the love and the support."

Sandoval hadn't appeared in any kind of big league game since July 29, 2021. He was 0-for-2 with a walk in his first game back. 

In the first inning, Sandoval came up with two on and two outs and faced a pitcher he'll never see if his comeback lands him back on a big league roster. Sandoval has given up switch-hitting and only will bat left-handed this year, but the Rangers had lefty Andrew Heaney on the mound. Sandoval bounced a ball back to the mound to end the first and then struck out on a breaking ball down and in from righty Adrian Sampson in his second at-bat. 

With David Villar on second in his final plate appearance, Sandoval fouled off a couple of pitches before taking ball four on a low fastball. He was replaced at first by pinch-runner Blake Sabol.

“He’s aggressive, like he always is,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You’re never going to be your best early in spring, but he drew a walk, which is a little against the grain for him. He has looked good, he really has. He’s in great shape and when you watch him in the cage take BP, it feels like it’s kind of similar.” 

Sandoval was the only Giant in the starting lineup who played for Bochy in San Francisco, but there was another familiar face on the other side. Matt Duffy is in Rangers camp, and the two members of the 2014 World Series team met up briefly.

The big moment, though, came right before first pitch. Sandoval walked over and hugged Bochy, a man he considers a father figure. The two hadn’t met face to face since 2019, although Sandoval said they talk on the phone often and exchange texts

During the brief conversation, Sandoval congratulated Bochy for winning another World Series title. Bochy complimented his former third baseman for his slimmed-down physique. 

“He looks good, he looks good,” Bochy said. “I’m pulling for him.” 

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