Pablo Sandoval played a shockingly good second base last night

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Joe Panik is on the disabled list and Kelby Tomlinson isn’t hitting. Between that and the fact that Buster Posey had a day off due to an ailing hip, Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided to go with Operation: Panda at second base for last night’s Giants-Cubs game in Chicago. It worked surprisingly well.

Sandoval came up as a catcher and has played most of his time in the bigs as a third baseman. He served as an emergency second base option for a partial inning for Boston last year, but when you think of him your mind does not immediately think “middle infielder.” With a new lease on baseball life back in San Francisco, however, he’s taken the “team-player” ethos to heart and seems willing to do whatever he’s asked. He recently pitched in relief and, in recent weeks has been taking grounders at second, just in case.

Last night he got the start and, because they are nothing if not hilarious, the Baseball Gods decided to make the ball find Sandoval a couple of times right off the bat. Cubs leadoff hitter Albert Almora Jr. hit a ball to the pitcher Ty Blach that ricocheted to Sandoval. He picked it up with his bare hand, but Almora beat the throw. Next up was Javier Baez, who hit a grounder to second which Sandoval snagged with a dive to his left, pulling a 360 and pegging Baez at first. Watch:

He’d later help turn a double play.

The decision to put Sandoval in the game paid off on offense too, as he went 1-for-3 with a run driven in. His fun did not last all game long, however, as he was lifted in a double switch midway through the game.

The Giants lost because Blach pitched terribly, but the putting Sandoval in at second base was an unexpected win.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”