There could be another Panda sighting in Boston this season.
On Saturday, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Pablo Sandoval is progressing faster than expected from shoulder surgery, and Farrell didn't rule out the third baseman from rejoining the team if needed.
"You can never forecast injury, you can never forecast what takes place ahead," Farrell told reporters before the Red Sox played the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
"Nothing has been ruled out with Pablo. Particularly with how he's responding. He's well ahead of schedule," Farrell added.
Boston beat the Rays 6-4 for their 10th consecutive win, maintaining a 5½-game lead over Toronto for the division title and clinching a playoff spot.
Sandoval underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. At the time, the Red Sox said he would make a full recovery in time for the 2017 season.
Sandoval, though, reportedly has dropped a significant amount of weight since the spring. He was with the Red Sox on Saturday and took batting practice at Tropicana Field before the game.
"Based on the surgery that was performed, based on the rehab that was required, he's doing a very good job and would be ahead of schedule," Farrell said. "He's been in games already in instructional league. So he's taking care of his end of the work that's needed."
Even the manager said he's surprised by the quick recovery.
"Yes. At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next spring training," Farrell said. "We're not getting too far ahead of ourselves, here. But at the same time, compliment him for the work that he's put in. The way he's responded to the rehab. The way he's worked himself back into better condition. So we're staying open-minded."
Sandoval's surgery marked the latest bump in the road for the third baseman since he signed a five-year, $95 million deal with Boston in November 2014.
He endured the worst season of his career in 2015, batting .245 with 10 homers and a .658 OPS.
Sandoval then reported to spring training this year out of shape, lost his job to Travis Shaw and went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in his only start of the season April 9 in Toronto. Four days later, Sandoval complained of shoulder soreness, leading to the eventual decision to have the surgery.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.