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Panda posts heartfelt message to Giants, fans after release

NBC Sports

It didn't take Pablo Sandoval long to win the Giants and their fans back after a departure that was acrimonious at first. Sandoval immediately returned to his status as a beloved teammate and leader in the clubhouse, and any fans who still harbored doubts came around when he took the mound for a memorable inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers early in the 2018 season. 

Sandoval became such an important figure in the clubhouse, and on the bench, that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi kept him around for the 2019 season and Zaidi, Scott Harris and Gabe Kapler brought Sandoval back this year even as they overhauled much of the rest of the roster. 

The second run ended Thursday, when Sandoval was released to clear a spot for Justin Smoak, a switch-hitter the Giants hope will provide more power against right-handed pitching. A few hours after the Giants made it official, Sandoval posted a heartfelt message to his Instagram page:

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It's unclear what's next for Sandoval, who turned 34 last month. Given that his family dealt with COVID-19 over the past month and the regular season ends in less than three weeks, it seems likely that Sandoval will spend the rest of this year back home in Miami. 

While Sandoval struggled this season, he was 14 points above league average as a hitter last season before Tommy John surgery cut his season short. With the universal DH possibly here to stay, this might not be the last of Sandoval as a big leaguer.