KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Pablo Sandoval was back in the Red Sox lineup on Friday night, freed from Instagram jail by manager John Farrell. He also was back at Kauffman Stadium reliving some happy memories.
Sandoval caught the final out of the World Series last Oct. 29, settling under a foul popup off the bat off Salvador Perez to secure a Game 7 victory for the San Francisco Giants.
Sandoval collapsed on the grass just in front of the visitors’ dugout, his arms outstretched. The game ended with the tying run on third base.
“A great moment for me in my life,” Sandoval said. “To be a champion, it’s the best.”
Sandoval was 12 of 28 in the World Series with three doubles, four RBIs, and six runs. It was his third championship with the Giants.
Perez, a fellow Venezuelan, is one of Sandoval’s best friends in the game. The two are planning to meet up for lunch this weekend.
“A great guy and a great catcher. We have a lot of fun together,” Sandoval said. “It was a tough moment in his career, the last out in the World Series and I caught it. It was kind of weird . . . We are great, great friends.”
Sandoval left Kauffman Stadium that night not knowing what direction his career would take. He became a free agent and agreed to a five-year, $95 million deal with the Red Sox about a month later.
The Giants have another strong team and their new third baseman Matt Duffy, signed to a one-year contract worth $509,000, has outperformed Sandoval so far.
In Boston, Sandoval is just now overcoming a slow start at the plate and in the field.
He also was benched for Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Braves for using his cellphone in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s game. Sandoval “liked” two photographs on Instagram, leaving a trail that was quickly exposed by a fan blogger.
Major League Baseball on Friday sent Sandoval a letter of warning for breaking the league rule of using an electronic device during the game. There was no fine and MLB considers the matter closed.
Farrell also was ready to move on.
“It was addressed internally; it was addressed by MLB,” he said. “We put it behind us.”
Sandoval has been criticized for his actions nationally — ESPN’s Rick Sutcliffe actually called for him to be fined $500,000 — and in Boston. But he’s not letting it get him down.
“I made a mistake,” Sandoval said. “I’m still happy I’m here and I still think this is a great team. We’re going to get better. I just want to play.”
Sandoval was 2 for 4 with a double in a 7-3 victory. He has hit safely in nine straight games at 16 of 35 with eight extra-base hits and six RBIs, boosting his batting average to .274.
Pedroia out again
Dustin Pedroia sat out for the third time in four games with inflammation in his left knee. Brock Holt started at second base.
Farrell expects Pedroia to return on Saturday.
“He had a good day. Came in, felt improved over a day ago,” the manager said. “He’s been able to hit in the cage. He didn’t experience any kind of soreness. Pretty much a day of testing and we anticipate him back in the lineup [Saturday].”
The biggest issue for Pedroia was planting his left leg as he hits.
“I’ll play. I’m ready. Thanks,” he said.
Farrell met with righthander Justin Masterson and presented him with two options: make another start in the minor leagues or come off the disabled list and pitch out of the bullpen. A decision is expected on Saturday.
Masterson will not be returning to the rotation, at least not for now. He has been on the DL since May 13 with a sudden case of shoulder tendinitis brought on by a 6.37 earned run average.
Masterson has started four minor league games, throwing 18⅓ innings and allowing seven earned runs.
He said earlier this week there is no physical reason he cannot pitch in the majors at this point.
The question is whether Masterson is willing to bide his time in the minors in hopes of a rotation spot opening.
“He’s going to take an overnight time to think about it. That’s kind of where things are right now,” Farrell said.
Masterson has pitched 65 games in relief over his career, three times last season.
“He hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen for quite some time,” Farrell said. “Where that matchup ability would be, first and foremost, would be dependent on the lineup and game situation. To say he would walk into a defined role is probably a little premature at this point.”
It’s uncertain how the Red Sox would make room for Masterson. Steven Wright has pitched well in long relief but two pitchers with those qualities aren’t needed. Wright has minor league options, as does lefthander Robbie Ross Jr.
Hanigan on target
Catcher Ryan Hanigan said he would start a rehab assignment with Triple A Pawtucket on Monday. He has not played since fracturing a finger on his right hand on May 1.
Hanigan is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on July 1 and that is his goal.
“I’ll catch some, DH a little and eventually catch a few games in a row. I feel pretty good,” he said. “It’s getting my timing back.”
Hanigan has been taking batting practice and catching bullpen sessions. To guard against another injury, he is working on keeping his right hand behind him.
“I’ve done it one way my whole career and never got hurt,” Hanigan said. “But I have to be careful with it; I know that. I’m trying.”
The Red Sox continue to take their time with right fielder Shane Victorino, out since May 24 with a strained left calf. He will do another series of base-running drills this weekend and be further evaluated.
“Provided he comes through all that, we’re getting that much closer to getting him out on a rehab assignment,” Farrell said.
Once Victorino does start playing in the minors, the Red Sox expect that will encompass at least a week of games.
On their side
The Sox are 7-1 against the Royals the last two seasons . . . Alejandro De Aza started in right field, leaving Rusney Castillo out of the lineup for the fourth time in the last five games. Castillo came in as a defensive replacement and singled in the ninth inning. He could be further pressed for playing time once Pedroia returns as that would shift Holt to right field . . . The Red Sox signed five more draft picks: righthander Kevin Kelleher (12th round), lefthander Logan Boyd (19th round), lefthander Brad Stone (24th round), righthander Trevor Kelley (36th round), and righthander Adam Lau (37th round) . . . The Royals already have sold out Saturday’s game. They drew 1 million fans 14 games earlier than they did last season . . . The Big Slick Celebrity Softball Game forced the Sox and Royals to take batting practice inside. Kansas City natives Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis were the big attractions along with Selena Gomez. NESN’s Don Orsillo grabbed a selfie with her.