The San Francisco Giants will get a needed boost to their lineup on Monday as third baseman Pablo Sandoval is scheduled to be activated from the disabled list. The 26-year-old, who is coming off a foot injury, went 4-for-6 with two home runs during his two rehab starts at Class-A San Jose.
His re-entry into the lineup gives the Giants some offense in a spot where they had little in his absence. Though Joaquin Arias was solid in replacing Sandoval, shortstop Brandon Crawford injured his hand this week, which forced Arias to move to short and led to a platoon of Tony Abreu and Nick Noonan at third. Even after Crawford returned, Arias sat while Noonan started.
Noonan was notified after Sunday’s loss to the Miami Marlins that he will return to Triple-A Fresno upon Sandoval’s activation. It was a bit of a surprise to see him demoted, seeing as he started all four games of the Marlins series. He definitely looked more comfortable at the plate after returning to the Giants following a brief trip to Fresno earlier this month, but Bruce Bochy has previously made it a point that he wants Noonan to get regular at-bats. In addition, Abreu, who was likely to go if Noonan stuck around, helped himself out by delivering a pinch-hit triple Sunday.
Ultimately, Sandoval’s greatest impact should be delivering some punch back to the middle of the lineup, which has seen its fair share of struggles recently. Hunter Pence is nine for his last 41, and Buster Posey made little impact during the Marlins series. Adding Sandoval to the team’s most elite group of hitters should energize the offense.
One question worth pondering is whether Sandoval will take over the cleanup spot in the midst of Pence’s struggles. Sandoval does not deliver the raw power out of the no. 4 hole that Pence is capable of providing, but his talent as a consistent line-drive hitter would allow the team to have a better chance of knocking in Posey while he’s on the basepaths.
Sandoval’s performance upon his return should be one of the keys to the Giants staying in contention. After a disappointing weekend against the team with the worst record in baseball, the Giants need to step it up as they face two division opponents, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies, on the road. They must then face the Cincinnati Reds, one of the most talented teams in baseball, for four games.
If Sandoval can’t help the Giants get some key victories, they should have trouble hanging in one of the tightest division races in the majors.