SAN FRANCISCO — Giants trainer Dave Groeschner likes to say that you never cut a player open if you don't have to. That theory might be put to the test after Pablo Sandoval's historic show in Game 1 of the World Series.
Sandoval added his name to a sentence that includes the names Ruth, Jackson and Pujols, and he did so just a few months after a rare second hamate surgery that sapped Sandoval of his prodigious power.
Sandoval had four homers in April but went on the disabled list in May and had his second hamate bone removed. A human being has just one hamate bone in each wrist, so Sandoval is one of the few athletes who performs with neither. Originally, the surgery turned Sandoval into a different hitter. He had one home run in June, two in July and none in August.
"It's a big thing to have that surgery," hitting coach Hensley Meulens said. "It took a while before he was driving the ball again. He's at full strength again and it's happening at a great time."
Sandoval started coming around in September, hitting four homers and four doubles and putting together impressive batting practice sessions. The Giants had a feeling he was starting to come around.
But they didn't expect this.
Sandoval hit three homers in Game 1 and has six in 54 postseason at-bats. He has 10 extra-base hits in 14 playoff games, matching his total from his final 36 games of the regular season.
"What you're seeing is a guy with incredible talent," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Occasionally you get a great athlete who gets in a zone. The game really slowed down for him."
Meulens and Bochy expect big things from Sandoval in the future, and teammate Aubrey Huff said Wednesday night that he has always thought Sandoval would put together a 40-homer season at some point.
At the moment, however, Sandoval is just focused on enjoying the ride. He had 300 text messages when he picked up his phone after Game 1, and hundreds of congratulatory tweets, including messages from Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
"I'm having fun," Sandoval said. "It's tough when you lose strength and muscle but I tried to not lose faith. The strength came back at the right time."