Red Sox Pablo Sandoval may return this season

Sep 24, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) works out prior the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) works out prior the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Red Sox announced that third baseman Pablo Sandoval may return for a few games. The source was not the Daily Onion.

The Red Sox have announced the possibility that third baseman Pablo Sandoval could return in the waning days of this season. Sandoval went under the surgical knife in May and the determination at that point was the Sandoval was done for the 2016 season. Apparently, Sandoval has been rehabbing at Lourdes, and may just take his 2016 slash line of .000/.143/.000 into a few remaining games.

The announcement certainly came as a surprise based on the severity of the injury and Sandoval’s 2015 lost season. Reports are that Panda has shed 22 pounds and has diligently applied himself to the rehab and conditioning process – both points substantiated by manager John Farrell.

"“Based on the surgery that was performed, based on the rehab that was required, he’s doing a very good job and would be ahead of schedule,” Farrell said. “He’s been in games already in instructional league. So he’s taking care of his end of the work that’s needed.” – John Farrell"

Sandoval signed a five-year deal in November of 2014 for $95 Million and his 2015 slash of .245/.292/.266 represented an offensive void only matched by Sandoval’s inept defense. Fielding metrics for 2015 had Sandoval firmly entrenched in last place.

The question is why bring him back?

Is this a reward for hard work? The onus was squarely on Sandoval to bury the issues of performance and weight and apparently some progress was made in the ever-present weight issue. Of course, the same story was circulated prior to spring training and the results were quickly shown – via some quite telling photographs – that Panda was a “stout” as ever.

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Sandoval’s performance certainly pales in the rejuvenation of another noted failure of 2015 – Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez has won over Red Sox Nation with RBI, home runs and a more than acceptable play at first base. Maybe that was a motivator for Sandoval?

Spring training saw the battle for third base to be won by Travis Shaw, who had a remarkable spring that carried into the season. Shaw hit .292 with seven home runs and 35 RBI through the end of May. Since that time Shaw’s average and power have decreased substantially with a K percentage approaching 25.

The Red Sox currently rank 13th among American League teams in offensive production at third base. Defensively, they have a UZR/150 of 4.0 that places the team in a respectable fourth place among AL teams. Third base has suddenly become a question mark to some. With the offense of David Ortiz ready to pack up the Red Sox may just wish to look for a bit more production at the third sack.

The Red Sox possible third baseman of the future Yoan Moncada’s  playing time evaporated with a string of strikeouts that at last count were at nine consecutive. The Red Sox also will occasional use super sub Brock Holt at third when necessary, but other options were used.

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The Red Sox made a trade for Aaron Hill, but unfortunately, it was not the Hill of 2009, but the current addition that has provided minimal offense at the hot corner. The Red Sox have also given brief exposure to Marco Hernandez at third and Hernandez can hit for average with a small sample available, but the long ball is not part of his skill set.

A few games by Sandoval could be an indicator of management on just how to approach the third base issue for 2017. Moncada needs more seasoning and will start the season at Pawtucket. Shaw’s value has certainly depreciated and if the second have of the season is any indicator third base in Boston is not in his future.

Next: Red Sox: Joe Kelly or Koji Uehara more important to re-sign?

Anyways, however, one wishes to twist all the potential plot lines the big news is that we may actually see a deflated (maybe) Panda at third for a few games.

Sources: Fangraphs/ESPN