Out with the new and in with the old seemed to be the theme at AT&T Park early Saturday morning.
As Jae-gyun Hwang packed his bags for Sacramento, Pablo Sandoval was in Bruce Bochy‘s office post-physical, yucking it up with one of the two people he said he would miss upon his departure from San Francisco back in 2014.
Moments later, the Giants announced that Sandoval would be signed to a minor league deal. He will begin his return as designated hitter for Single-A San Jose, then when Triple-A Sacramento returns home, he’ll play third and take 40-50 at-bats before a re-assessment, Bochy siad:
“He looks determined to show he’s got a lot of baseball left in him, and that’s what we’ll find out.”
Sandoval looked to be in better shape than he was when he left San Francisco and greeted reporters like old friends. He went down to the batting cage, for a long time, giving time for a statement he released to settle in:
“I have always loved and appreciated the Giants organization, my Giants teammates and the fans of San Francisco. I have so many great memories and I want to thank the organization for giving me another chance to come back here. When I left the Giants in 2014, my comments were emotional, insensitive and misguided and I truly regret and apologize for my actions. I am committed to working hard to contributing to the success of the Giants.”
It seemed odd, at first, that Sandoval and the Giants agreed to test this relationship again, given how it ended. Sandoval said he would only miss Bochy and Hunter Pence when he left for Boston at the end of the 2014 World Series run. Even upon his return he referred to Pence as his brother and Bochy to a father figure.
Asked repeatedly about those statements and heart-breaking departure, Sandoval said his decision to leave was a “miscommunication” and his comments were “emotional.” Below the surface of these two descriptors, we can assume Sandoval regrets the way his agent and team handled the whole hairy situation.
Overall, he seemed excited to return and see his teammates, saying he loved to see them all with bigger families and new marriages. This is where he grew up, where he won the 2012 World Series MVP. Where he learned to be his best self:
“I learned my lesson. I had the greatest moments of my career here, so I’m grateful for a second chance.”
Why did he return?
“Five years. Three World Series’, dynasty, the fans support me, teammates, everything.”
The fans are well aware of Sandoval’s comments, but the hoard crowded around the dugout remembered him well and sounded happy to see him as they begged for autographs. It’s clear why Sandoval wanted to return — he knows he can succeed here, there’s a sense of familiarity and confidence on his side. Sandoval is kind of like the cheating spouse in this scenario, so what does the cheated get out of a reunion?
Bochy was asked if the decision was purely baseball, to which the skipper scoffed:
“I know what you’re getting at. It’s obvious we are looking for anyone that can win us games.”
Perhaps there are unsold boxes of panda hats in the depths of the park warehouse. Perhaps the organization liked the attention its minor league affiliates got from Madison Bumgarner‘s rehab stints and are looking for something similar with Sandoval that can translate to AT&T Park, the same year it snapped its sell-out streak. Which begs the question: will Sandoval make it out of Sacramento?
He was hitting .212 in 32 games with the Red Sox and hasn’t played a game since June 19. Sandoval struck out 24 times and hit just 4 home runs. There’s a chance that pattern continues in the Pacific Coast League.
Bochy said that, right now, his third baseman is Eduardo Nunez. But with Hwang’s recent demotion and Nunez the team’s biggest trade chip, it looks like the club is setting the table for a reunion within the month.