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Sandoval feels the love in final at-bat of 2019

@mi_guardado
September 1, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- The sense of an ending brought him back to the beginning. As he prepared to take possibly his final at-bat with the Giants, Pablo Sandoval was overcome with the same type of nerves that gripped him 11 years ago when he made his Major League debut at

SAN FRANCISCO -- The sense of an ending brought him back to the beginning.

As he prepared to take possibly his final at-bat with the Giants, Pablo Sandoval was overcome with the same type of nerves that gripped him 11 years ago when he made his Major League debut at 22 years old. He heard the roars from the fans at Oracle Park and tried to keep himself calm, but his emotions nearly betrayed him.

“I wanted to cry, but I held onto it,” Sandoval said following the Giants’ 8-4 loss to the Padres on Sunday. “It’s great when you feel the love from the fans.”

Box score

With season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow looming Wednesday in Los Angeles, Sandoval came off the injured list Sunday to log one final at-bat under manager Bruce Bochy, the man he views as a second father.

The moment came in the seventh inning, when he emerged from the dugout for a pinch-hit appearance against Padres right-hander Luis Perdomo with a runner on first and one out. Swinging from the left side, Sandoval took a first-pitch fastball for a called strike before grounding out to third baseman Manny Machado. The result mattered little to the fans, who sent him off with another loud ovation.

“It was emotional,” said Sandoval, who will be eligible for free agency at the end of the season. “I was lost a little bit, but at least I stepped into home plate and hit the ball and didn’t strike out.”

Bochy’s message to Sandoval when he returned to the dugout was succinct.

“‘Hey, it’s been a joy,’” Bochy said. “It was good to give him one more at-bat. Obviously, we’re hoping to get a base hit there, but I think he saw how much he’s loved here. What a great ovation they gave him.”

Sandoval hadn’t take an at-bat in more than three weeks, but he worked hard to get himself ready for Sunday’s brief cameo. He was fully aware that it might be his last chance to suit up for the Giants, who welcomed him back in 2017 even after he burned his share of bridges while leaving to sign a five-year, $95 million contract with the Red Sox.

“It was kind of a somber day for Pablo,” right-hander Jeff Samardzija said. “I just wish he’d been healthy to finish the season out and play that last game here, but everything he’s done for this organization is unbelievable.”

Before landing on the IL with right elbow inflammation on Aug. 14, Sandoval had been in the midst of a resurgent season for the Giants, batting .269 with an .823 OPS and 14 home runs over 107 games. The 33-year-old veteran had played through bone chips in his throwing elbow in the past, but he sensed this latest flareup was more severe. He showed little improvement after receiving a cortisone shot and was sent to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who recommended reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.

“I’m not a crybaby,” Sandoval said. “I know how to deal with pain, but this one is different.”

Position players typically require a shorter recovery period from Tommy John surgery than pitchers, and Sandoval is confident that he will be able to return to play next year. He reiterated his desire to stay in San Francisco, where he has won three World Series titles and earned two All-Star appearances, but he understands the decision is out of his hands, especially now that a new front office is in place.

“I know I’m going to be a free agent, but I want to be here the rest of my career,” Sandoval said. “I don’t make those decisions, so I just want to enjoy this moment, enjoy this day.”

Sandoval said he reflected on his tenure with the Giants on his drive home Saturday night and arrived at the ballpark at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday brimming with anxiety. Despite the persistent discomfort in his right elbow, he felt he owed it to the fans, and Bochy, to push through the pain and show his appreciation for the Giants one more time.

“I love this city,” Sandoval said. “This city gave me a lot of things, a lot of things to me and my family. A lot of great memories here. I hope it’s not ending right here, but it happens for a reason. I hope I’ll be back and doing the things I did this year to give them a great show.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.