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Nunez returns, determined to help Giants

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN DIEGO -- Eduardo Nunez insisted Friday that he wants to remain with the Giants despite his impending free agency this winter, and the third baseman vowed to spend the rest of the season proving his devotion to the club.

Nunez returned to San Francisco's lineup for the second-half opener against the San Diego Padres after missing 18 games with a strained left hamstring.

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SAN DIEGO -- Eduardo Nunez insisted Friday that he wants to remain with the Giants despite his impending free agency this winter, and the third baseman vowed to spend the rest of the season proving his devotion to the club.

Nunez returned to San Francisco's lineup for the second-half opener against the San Diego Padres after missing 18 games with a strained left hamstring.

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The productivity that Nunez sustained before being injured went largely unnoticed. He reached base safely via a hit or a walk in 30 consecutive games and batted .407 (22-for-54) with runners in scoring position. That's the second-highest average in the National League. He also stole 17 bases in 20 tries.

"He is a catalyst on this club, with the athleticism that he brings and the speed and the energy. So it's good to have him back," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Nunez wants to stick around past 2017. He declared that his devotion to the Giants, who acquired him from Minnesota shortly before last year's Trade Deadline, is stronger than the pull of free agency.

"This is the best team to be with [to have the potential] to win a championship," Nunez said.

Hence, Nunez said that he will continue to channel his efforts toward furthering the Giants' success rather than his own.

"Everybody wants to play well, whether you're a free agent or not," Nunez said. "It's your ego. It's why you're here. But I'm not thinking about that."

With Nunez back, Bochy said that Jae-Gyun Hwang will fill a utility role, backing up at the infield corners and as an corner outfielder.

Mum on Sandoval

Giants general manager Bobby Evans would not discuss whether the club is exploring the possibility of reacquiring third baseman Pablo Sandoval, their beloved Kung Fu Panda.

That's because Sandoval, whom the Red Sox designated for assignment on Friday, remains Boston's property. For Evans to breathe a word about Sandoval would violate protocol.

The Red Sox have seven days to either trade Sandoval or release him outright, at which point he'd be free to sign with any club.

However, common sense dictates that Sandoval won't rejoin the Giants. They already have a glut of full- or part-time third basemen in the Majors and high Minors (Nunez, Hwang, Conor Gillaspie, Christian Arroyo, Ryder Jones). Sandoval's weight and health issues also have remained a concern.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Eduardo Nunez, Pablo Sandoval