Gabe Kapler explains difficult talk with Pablo Sandoval about release

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  • Gabe Kapler
    Gabe Kapler
    Major League Baseball manager and former player
  • Pablo Sandoval
    Pablo Sandoval
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|

Kapler explains why talk with Pablo was so difficult originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

A month before spring training, as Gabe Kapler filled his days with meetings at Oracle Park and conversations with his 13 Giants coaches and dozens of new players, he occasionally would look down at his cell phone and see a text message arriving from Miami.

The baseball world thought Pablo Sandoval would miss most of the 2020 season after having Tommy John surgery last September, but Sandoval's recovery sailed along over the winter, and when Kapler traveled to South Florida to meet with some young Giants who live in the area, Sandoval showed up and hit it off with the man who was set to replace Bruce Bochy.

They stayed in touch, and Sandoval kept Kapler updated on his progress with videos of his workouts. He officially returned to the Giants at the end of January, and when the season was delayed, he ended up on the Opening Day roster. On Thursday, the Giants had to cut the struggling Panda loose, and it proved to be a difficult conversation for both sides.

Kapler had grown to feel the same way about Sandoval that the previous regime did. He called him a "beloved figure and great human being" and said that Sandoval was professional and very understanding of the situation.

"He's such an incredible contributor to the organization, his teammates, the coaching staff, everybody," Kapler said. "It was very difficult to deliver that news. Very difficult for Pablo to receive it. He was a pro and a gentleman every step of the way. It was definitely a loss."

Kapler had hoped Sandoval could be his best late-innings threat against right-handed pitchers, noting repeatedly this spring and summer that he has been on the other side from the Giants and seen Sandoval come in late ready to do damage. But Sandoval never got his swing untracked, notching just two extra-base hits in 33 appearances.

The Giants will try Justin Smoak, who was struggling in Milwaukee before being released but has a strong recent track record of mashing righties and having quality at-bats.

Smoak, 33, is in a similar part of his career as the 34-year-old Sandoval. Kapler has been there, too. He was 35 years old when Don Mattingly and Ned Colleti called him into the office and told him his time with the Dodgers was over.

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Kapler never played in the big leagues again, but he said he has no doubt Sandoval wants to keep playing and will have opportunities in the future.

"He's still agile at third base, he still has great hands, he still has power," Kapler said. "We see it on a regular basis in batting practice. It just wasn't coming together for him the way he wanted to, and I think he would probably say the same."