Panda's season to end with Tommy John surgery

August 25th, 2019

OAKLAND -- The Giants announced Saturday that will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in the first week of September, prematurely ending a resurgent season for the 33-year-old veteran infielder.

Sandoval traveled to Los Angeles on Wednesday to be evaluated by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who recommended reconstructive surgery of the ulnar collateral ligament in Sandoval's throwing elbow.

Sandoval landed on the injured list with right elbow inflammation on Aug. 14 and received a cortisone shot in the hopes of alleviating the pain, but he showed little improvement in subsequent days, prompting the Giants to send him to ElAttrache for a second opinion. Sandoval has dealt with loose bodies in his elbow since 2013, but this latest bout of inflammation proved to be more severe than his previous flareups.

"This was a tough blow for us," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We missed him on that road trip, even in that Chicago series. We lose two close games. Those three games could have gone either way. You have to think that he would have played a part in that. He was already missed, and not having him the rest of the year, that's a tough one. He means a lot to this club."

Sandoval hit .269 with 14 homers and an .823 OPS over 107 games with the Giants this season and emerged as one of Bochy's most valuable assets off the bench due to his defensive versatility and skill as a pinch-hitter. The .823 OPS was his highest in any season since 2011, while the 14 homers were his most since 2014 -- his final season with the Giants in his first stint with the club.

For the second consecutive year, a significant injury will scuttle Bochy's plans to have Sandoval play all nine positions in a game for the Giants. Sandoval also required season-ending surgery last August after he tore his hamstring on a slide into home plate.

"Selfishly, I'd love to have some fun with him here the last five, six weeks," Bochy said. "He's just so much fun, his love for the game, his enthusiasm. Every day he comes up with a smile on his face. We haven't quite seen that because he's been a little down because of the injury. But for Pablo long term, this is the best thing."

Bochy has long been a father figure for Sandoval, who became emotional while describing the impact his longtime manager has had on him over his career.

"He's like my dad," Sandoval said. "He always wants the best for me. He always cares about me."

Sandoval is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, and Bochy is hoping his pinch-hit appearance against the Phillies on Aug. 9 won't go down as his final at-bat with the Giants. Bochy said he'd like to try to get Sandoval one more at-bat at Oracle Park next week if his body can handle it.

"I'd love to," Bochy said. "If he's able to and it would work out, sure, I'd love to see that. But we'll see how he's feeling, where he's at and of course, that's a decision that we all have to make together."

"If he wants me to go there and play, I'll take one more at-bat for him," Sandoval said.

While Sandoval's future in San Francisco is unclear, athletic trainer Dave Groeschner said the Giants' medical staff will stay in contact throughout the offseason and make sure his rehab is going smoothly. The Giants will have a better idea of Sandoval's timetable after he undergoes surgery, but position players typically return from the procedure faster than pitchers.

Sandoval cited Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius and Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani as two potential blueprints for his recovery. Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery last October and returned to make his 2019 debut in June. Ohtani resumed hitting five months after undergoing surgery.

"I've got more baseball in me," Sandoval said. "It's not the end of my career. I just want to get it fixed and get healthy to be back to keep proving to people that I can play baseball."