MIAMI -- Panda is back. Head gear and all, infielder Pablo Sandoval was reinstated from the restricted list on Thursday and was back with the club prior to the Braves opening a three-game series at loanDepot park.
The 34-year-old missed two games while on the restricted list dealing with a personal matter. While greeting Braves home run hitters in the dugout with full Panda head gear, Sandoval himself looks to regain the power that has eluded him since the beginning of the season.
Mostly used in a pinch-hit role, Sandoval was 0-for-11 before going on the restricted list. Since his game-tying pinch-hit homer against the Phillies on May 8, Panda had just one hit in his next 25 plate appearances as a pinch hitter with four walks.
However, Sandoval rejoined the club with an MLB-most four homers in pinch-hit roles. Displaying a flare for the dramatic, all four have come in the sixth inning or later. In addition to leading the Majors, Sandoval’s four pinch-hit long balls are tied for most (Tommy Gregg in '90, Evan Gattis in '13 and Johan Camargo in '19) since the franchise relocated to Atlanta in 1966. Only Butch Nieman has hit more in franchise history, with five in 1945 for the then Boston Braves.
In a corresponding move, the Braves optioned RHP Jacob Webb to Triple-A Gwinnett. Webb tossed 2 scoreless innings on Wednesday in his only appearance after replacing Sandoval on the active roster on Tuesday.
Webb is 5-2 in three seasons with the Braves, posting a 2.20 ERA over 62 games, all in relief. He appeared in a career-high 36 games in 2019 with an impressive 1.39 ERA, striking out 28 over 32 1/3 innings.
Soroka's surgery goes well
Braves right-hander Mike Soroka underwent successful surgery on a torn right Achilles. It was the second full repair and third surgery for the 23-year-old, all since last August.
That’s when he first suffered a tear in a game against the Mets. It ended his 2020 season, and he has not fully recovered. Requiring a second surgery in May, Soroka reinjured the tendon again in late June.
“Everything went really good,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, of Soroka’s latest surgery. “He’s back home now. Just resting and recovering. Everything went exactly how they expected it to do. So now, I guess time will tell how everything feels and where he’s at.”
Soroka made 29 starts for the Braves in a stellar 2019 season. He won 13 of 17 decisions with a 2.68 ERA, but has made just three starts since.