After Pablo Sandoval was cut by the Boston Red Sox and dubbed one of the biggest MLB free-agent busts in history last summer, he returned to the San Francisco Giants, but expectations were understandably low. And that was pretty fair, as Sandoval served mostly as a replacement third baseman and hit just .220/.265/.367. He’s off to a better (if still not great) start this year, though, hitting .242/.306/.424 in the 17 games where he’d seen action heading into Saturday, and he delivered a really unexpected contribution for the Giants in the 9th inning of Saturday’s first-game (a makeup of a rained-out Friday night game) 15-6 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking to the mound and retiring all three batters he faced. And Giants’ broadcasters Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper were quite impressed with his form:
POSITION 🐼 PITCHING. pic.twitter.com/YGFbJCicYw
— MLB (@MLB) April 29, 2018
As was the recently-suspended @PitchingNinja (hopefully this doesn’t lead to another ill-advised suspension):
Pablo Sandoval, Filthy Two Pitch Sequence (87mph Fastball and 70mph Curveball). 🐼🔥
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 29, 2018
As MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa noted, this was the first time a position player pitched for the Giants since Greg Litton on July 4, 1991. And Sandoval did quite the job, getting Max Muncy, Yasmani Grandal, and Chris Taylor all to ground out. He did so with some decent stuff, too, including a fastball that reached 88 miles per hour and five curveballs ranging from 68.9 mph to 71.6 mph. And as he told Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News, he had fun with it:
“At the end of the day, it’s one of the moments that everyone was in the dugout watching the game,” Sandoval said. “It was exciting to get the team together. We lost the game but we had a little fun at the end of the game.”
…“He did bring some levity to a real long game,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The club needed it in this respect. We’re trying to save some arms here for tonight and tomorrow.”
With the Giants struggling, Bochy approached Sandoval in the seventh inning about the idea of pitching the ninth. The utility infielder embraced the opportunity and became the first Giants position player to toss a scoreless frame since Matty Alou threw two on August 26, 1965 against the Pirates.
“I don’t ask to do this,” Sandoval said. “I just wait for the moment when it comes.”
Well, Sandoval lived up to that moment Saturday. And while no one expects to regularly see him on the mound, this made sense to close out the first half of a doubleheader and save the bullpen’s arms for the second game. And it provided yet another fun moment in the Panda’s return to AT&T Park.