SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval was all smiles one day after making his first start of the Cactus League season in a split-squad game against the Padres in Peoria on Saturday. Fresh from a morning workout, Sandoval was clearly pleased to be practicing at full strength, and he was eager to find ways to make an impact with a Giants lineup he's been in for parts of nine seasons.
Sandoval had been out of commission with a tweaked muscle in his side, but he reported no problems after his first spring appearance.
“It was good, my first game,” Sandoval said. “I feel good today. It’s part of the moment, the progress. I’ll have to keep working hard to get my timing going, but I feel good.”
Sandoval is in Giants camp this season after a successful return to the club in 2018, when he hit .248/.310/.417 with nine homers and 40 RBIs in 92 games after spending two and a half years with the Red Sox.
Sandoval went 0-for-3 on Saturday, grounding out in the first and fourth innings against left-handers Nick Margevicius and Aaron Loup, respectively, before he struck out swinging in the sixth against righty Phil Maton.
“[My timing was] a little bit lost because it was lefty on lefty, because of my side, but I’m feeling great,” Sandoval said. “I’m starting to swing better.”
The switch-hitting Sandoval had not been taking batting practice right-handed before his first start on Saturday, but he started swinging from both sides of the box in his workout on Sunday.
“Pablo swung today pretty good right-handed,” manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday. “He thinks he can swing right-handed.”
Sandoval is battling for an Opening Day roster spot in an infield that figures to feature Evan Longoria at third, Brandon Crawford at short, Joe Panik at second and Brandon Belt at first. Sandoval had one chance at third base on Saturday, a run-scoring infield single from Fernando Tatis Jr. that proved to be a good test for his side muscle.
“I fielded, I dove for a play, no problem,” Sandoval said. “I’m happy to be back on the field. I’ll try to do everything to help this team.”
The highlight of Sunday’s 9-3 loss to the Rockies was Dereck Rodriguez’s three-inning start. He gave up a run on two hits and two walks. All the damage came with two outs in the first inning, before Rodriguez retired seven straight to finish strong.
“He really did a nice job regrouping,” Bochy said. “He was a little off with the command early, but settled down and found it and pitched a solid three innings.”
Cameron Maybin continued his 0-for-16 Cactus League slump, but Bochy is not concerned about Maybin’s adjustments after a late start to his spring. His sixth-inning at-bat ended with what looked like an extra-base hit to right until Rockies prospect Sam Hilliard made a diving catch to rob Maybin.
“He’s trying to find it,” Bochy said. “It’s obvious his timing’s off. He tweaked his swing a little bit this winter and it’s taking a little time to get his timing.
“We’re looking for quality at bats. We’re early March. He signed late. All these guys: some of them it might be 10 at-bats, some of them it may be 25 or 30 at-bats before they feel comfortable up there. He’s going to get more at-bats.”
A minor scare came in a ninth-inning rally when Abiatal Avelino doubled but appeared to have injured his foot rounding second base. Avelino played the entire game until coming out after the play.
“He stepped on it a little awkwardly,” Bochy said. “They think he’s fine. He’ll be fine to go tomorrow. They’ll check on him when we get back. I think it scared them a little bit, the way he stepped on it a little awkwardly.”
The Giants host the Dodgers at Scottsdale Stadium on Monday at 12:05 p.m. PT, with right-hander Jeff Samardzija getting the start for San Francisco and Andrew Suarez, Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson, Carlos Navas and Garrett Williams also slated to pitch. The Dodgers will start righty Dylan Floro with Pedro Baez and southpaw Scott Alexander also penciled in.