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Bench role doesn't disturb cheery Sandoval

Veteran could see time at first base, serve as pinch-hitter
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval is a cornered cornerman, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Sandoval, the hugely popular Giants third baseman, knows that Evan Longoria, the three-time All-Star, will occupy the hot corner for a large percentage of the season.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval is a cornered cornerman, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Sandoval, the hugely popular Giants third baseman, knows that Evan Longoria, the three-time All-Star, will occupy the hot corner for a large percentage of the season.

Playing first base would be a potential alternative for Sandoval, who has appeared in 72 Major League games there. But Brandon Belt will receive most of the playing time at that spot.

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So, coming soon to a ballpark near you will be the sight of Sandoval in the dugout, whether he's sitting on the bench or leaning against the railing and spitting sunflower seeds.

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Sandoval insisted that he's not upset with the developments that have dented his status.

"This is such a great, great group," Sandoval said Wednesday. "Bringing on Longo and [Andrew] McCutchen [will] help us get better."

Sandoval could help the Giants improve, too. The .283 lifetime hitter could be a formidable presence off the bench, either as a pinch-hitter or a late-inning substitute. His ability to switch-hit makes him even more useful.

Sandoval slashed .225/.263/.375 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 47 games for the Giants last year after the Red Sox released him in July. Modest as those numbers are, Sandoval should be more of an offensive threat if his oft-injured left shoulder has healed, as he claimed. That would enable him to bat right-handed without encumbrance.

Maybe Sandoval is no longer the sensation who recorded a .333 batting average and a .924 OPS in his first season-and-a-half with the Giants (2008-'09). Perhaps he'll never again enjoy a night approaching Oct. 24, 2012, when he tied a World Series record by lining three homers in Game 1 against the Detroit Tigers.

Video: WS2012 Gm1: Sandoval swats three homers vs. Tigers

Nevertheless, if Sandoval is the Giants' 24th or 25th player, it probably means that the ballclub has indeed upgraded its personnel overall.

"I talked about how important depth is at FanFest," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Here's a proven veteran who can hit and play first or third. He gives you depth there."

Sandoval also gives the Giants life. Arriving in the clubhouse to work out informally with other position players, Sandoval bounded around the room, bellowing happily and feinting punches at teammates.

All but forgotten is the memory of Sandoval dismissing the Giants by saying -- after bolting for Boston as a free agent in 2015 -- that he will only miss Bochy and Hunter Pence.

"His enthusiasm is always there, and that's what you love about him," Bochy said. "We haven't had that. [Other players] are locked into what they're doing. They're quiet guys. But Pablo is the guy who's making some noise."

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, Pablo Sandoval