Pablo Sandoval walked into the Giants clubhouse Sunday hoping he might be able to avoid a stint on the disabled list.
But his optimism was short-lived and his injury is much worse than expected. Sandoval is now out for the season and will require surgery to heal a torn right hamstring.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced the news before Thursday’s series-opener in Arizona, where the Giants will play the first-place Diamondbacks.
“It shocks me,” Bochy said. “I guess when he slid into home is when he did it. You never think a hamstring is going to put him out over two months but if it’s this bad of a tear, it needs surgery.”
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Sandoval suffered the hamstring injury sliding into home plate July 29 against the Brewers. He legged out a triple to reach third base and then scored on a sacrifice fly, but Bochy said Sandoval didn’t feel pain until executing his slide into the plate.
Sandoval hit .248 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs for the Giants this season as a key presence off the bench. Though Sandoval began the season as a bench player, he worked his way into the starting lineup as a replacement for first baseman Brandon Belt and third baseman Evan Longoria who both missed time due to injuries this season.
“They all hurt, but Pablo was so valuable in all the roles that he had this season,” Bochy said. “We lost Belt, he played first. Longo goes down, he played third. Not just play them, but do a really nice job defensively. He was a big part of this offense.”
The Giants signed Sandoval last July after he was designated for assignment halfway through his five-year contract with the Boston Red Sox. He hit just .225 for San Francisco last year, but made the club out of spring training this season and was lauded by Bochy and teammates for his willingness to fill any role and positive influence in the Giants clubhouse.
Sandoval also appeared at second base and as a pitcher this season, debuting on the mound with a scoreless inning against the Dodgers April 28. Bochy expressed hope in July he could find a way for Sandoval to play all nine positions in a game, but one of the team’s most versatile players won’t have the chance to try that until 2019.
“We say so many times, the energy that he brings, you miss that,” Bochy said. “We’re going to miss that. But he’ll be around once he gets through this surgery and he’ll be down pulling for the boys.”
Sandoval was the primary backup at both corner infield positions, but the Giants have several options at both positions. Belt will miss the next eight-to-10 days as he continues to recover from a hyperextended knee, so rookie Austin Slater will start his third consecutive game at first base.
Bochy said catcher Buster Posey could also play some first during Belt’s absence, while utility player Chase d’Arnaud could fill in if necessary.
With Sandoval out, d’Arnaud, Alen Hanson and Kelby Tomlinson can all provide coverage behind Longoria at third base. The Giants may also consider promoting Ryder Jones from Triple-A as Jones is hitting .288 for the Triple-A River Cats.