Sandoval serious about comeback: 'I missed it a lot'

February 19th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When returned to Oracle Park for Mike Murphy’s induction into the Giants’ Wall of Fame last August, he told a few of his former teammates that he planned to try to return to the Majors soon.

“I told them, ‘I’ll be back next year,’” Sandoval said. “They thought I was joking, but I was serious.”

Sandoval, 37, stayed true to his word, reuniting with the Giants on a Minor League deal Monday with an invitation to big league camp. The Panda hasn’t played in the Majors since 2021, but he reported to Scottsdale Stadium looking noticeably trimmer and said he’s grateful for the chance to show that he can still be a big leaguer.

“I’m happy and blessed for this opportunity,” Sandoval said. “After three years, to be out of the league and get an opportunity to be back in the field again, it’s amazing. It’s amazing because the time that I was out, I missed it a lot. I got an opportunity to work out this year to put all the work together and get back in the best shape that I’ve ever been.”

Sandoval competed in the new Baseball United league in Dubai last fall and has had stints in the Mexican League and the Puerto Rican Winter League in recent years, though he credited his 8-year-old son, Liam, with inspiring his comeback attempt.

“I got the opportunity to take my kids to the field and work out a little bit with him,” Sandoval said. “He mentioned to me, ‘Dad, you can still play. You still hit the ball.’ That got me thinking a little more on baseball. All the things that he told me put me back on track to do the things that I know how to do.”

Asked why the Giants decided to bring Sandoval back for his third stint with the club, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi deadpanned, “We had to sign Pablo because the workout videos he was sending me were taking up all the space on my phone.”

Unlike his former teammate Sergio Romo, who signed a Minor League deal with the intention of making one final exhibition appearance with the Giants last year, Sandoval said he has no immediate plans to hang up his cleats. The two-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion will be a long shot to make San Francisco's roster this spring, though he said he would be open to beginning the season at Triple-A Sacramento if necessary.

“I’m not going to retire, guys,” Sandoval said. “I came here to work with young guys and learn from them a little bit more and try to fight for a spot.”

With Jorge Soler slated to serve as the Giants’ everyday designated hitter, Sandoval is expected to get a look at the corner infield spots and could give the club another left-handed-hitting option behind LaMonte Wade Jr. at first base. While he switch-hit for most of his career, Sandoval said he plans to bat exclusively from the left side moving forward.

Regardless of what he brings with the bat, the Giants believe he’ll be a good presence in the clubhouse and help mentor other young Latinos on the team, including shortstop Marco Luciano and outfielder Luis Matos.

“He’s had a big impact on this team over the years,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s got an infectious personality. He’s experienced. He’s motivated, and I think there’s a lot that can rub off to some of our younger guys, too. He doesn’t want to hear anything about what his chances are. He’s going to go out there, and he’s going to play and he’s going to try to force our hand.”

Worth noting
• The Giants held a team meeting prior to their first full-squad workout of the spring Monday. Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said Melvin put a big emphasis on unity, a theme that’s exemplified by the club’s decision to have every player in the same clubhouse this year. San Francisco previously relegated most of its non-roster invitees to a separate locker room, which made it harder for some players to feel included.

“There was a lot of preach on being one big unit, and you can see that from the way the locker room is set up and trying to keep everybody together and everybody on the same page,” Yastrzemski said. “It’s going to take more than 26 guys, essentially. It was a very welcoming, detail-oriented speech.”

• Left-hander Carson Whisenhunt, the club’s No. 3 prospect, took a few days off from throwing after taking a ball off his left index finger last week, but he’s back playing catch, and he threw a bullpen session Monday.