ORACLE PARK — San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval had been dealing with some sort of pain in his right elbow since 2013. He’d just been able to grind through it.
After a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning on Aug. 9, though, it flared up. A Sunday MRI that revealed loose bodies — bone chips — in the elbow was followed by a cortisone shot, but the pain has not abated. On Wednesday, Sandoval was placed on the 10-day injured list. He’s being shut down from all baseball activities.
“Three days, it didn’t get better, so we’ll see how 10 days go,” Sandoval said. “It’s pretty damaged. It’s beat up. I just want to have positive thoughts.”
Sandoval — who turned 33 on Sunday — has been used primarily as a part-time fill-in for Evan Longoria at third and Brandon Belt at first this season, allowing him to stay fresh and effective. He’s enjoyed a career revival in his third season back in San Francisco, posting his best batting average (.269) and on-base percentage (.314) since 2014, and his best slugging percentage (.509) since an All-Star 2011 campaign.
“He’s frustrated,” said manager Bruce Bochy, “and he’s in pain.”
Sandoval hit on Tuesday, but was sore on Wednesday, hence the roster move.
There have been times during Sandoval’s tenure with the Giants that Bochy has had to back him off because of the pain. It’s been infrequent until now. Bochy said there have even been runaway games where he could have pitched Sandoval, but he did not because of the elbow.
“After a few years, it gets a little worse gradually,” Bochy said. “He’s been dealing with this for a few years. But you know, he’s been playable. He’s had this for a while. This didn’t come up two days ago.”
No decision has been made as to whether Sandoval will need surgery, but the both Sandoval and the Giants are hoping that the pain will subside during his stint on the injured list to where he can at least be somewhat productive if he returns. Sandoval, for his part, has said he’s intended to get it fixed one of these days, and he may have to undergo offseason surgery, though that’s yet to be determined.
As it stands, Sandoval can only hit left-handed. Throwing exacerbates the pain, as does swinging right-handed.
“I won’t help anybody like that,” Sandoval said. “I just want to be straight up with the training staff and the manager. I’d love to help the team come from the bench. I hope I can play, too, but it’s time to give time to other guys. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, you have to take care of yourself to be ready for Sepbember and that push.”
Bochy said that, if he can’t throw without pain, the Giants would consider him just pinch-hitting left-handed and hitting only lefty while playing first. If it turns out that all he would be able to do in September is hit left-handed, Sandoval wants to be there for the retiring Bochy’s final month.
“I would love to, but I’ve got to hope that I can throw and play in the field, too,” Sandoval said. “It depends on how it reacts. In 2013, it was almost the same, and I missed almost three weeks in spring training, but I started Opening Day against [Clayton] Kershaw. I did nothing in spring. It depends on how the elbow feel.”
Until he returns, Sandoval said, “I’ll just be cheerleading.”
Johnny Cueto will throw 45 pitches in hopefully three innings for the Single-A San Jose Giants on Thursday. Bochy wasn’t sure how manyr ehab starts Cueto has left, but it’s likely he’d have to get to at least seven innings and/or 90 pitches before he’d get cleared to return.
“I hate put a number on it to be honest,” Bochy said. “Four maybe five [starts]— we’ll see where we’re at. You know, but we expect to be pitching up here in September.”
In two rehab starts already, Cueto has thrown 28 pitches over four innings, striking out seven while allowing two hits.
“I don’t know if he’s been in better shape,” Bochy said. “He’s got himself in great shape, and very determined to come back.”
The Giants activated outfielder Alex Dickerson from the 10-day injured list (oblique), and while he won’t start the first game of the road trip against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he’s ready to return to near-full-time duty. In the 30 games Dickerson played before going down, San Francisco was 20-10.
Dickerson went 0-for-3 with a walk for the Sacramento River Cats on Tuesday, but since they’re off on Wednesday en route to Reno, and Single-A San Jose is in Visalia, San Francisco wanted to get him back up in time to travel with the Giants to Arizona. He won’t start on Thursday, but will likely start on Friday.
Jeff Samardzija will start on Friday for the Giants, while Madison Bumgarner will go on Sunday, but it remains to be seen who starts on Thursday and Saturday. Dereck Rodriguez was on the taxi squad at Oracle Park on Wednesday, and could be an option, but so could Logan Webb, who pitched in his first Triple-A game on Tuesday. Rodriguez said he doesn’t know what the plan is, and Bochy said there will be some alteration to the weekend rotation, but left what that would be until his postgame comments.