Giants right fielder Hunter Pence walked into the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium on Friday morning with a cast covering his left arm and his long, curly hair wildly unkempt.
A day after suffering a fractured left forearm when he was struck by a fastball from Cubs pitcher Corey Black, he said: “The saddest part is I can’t really comb my hair anymore.”
Pence was decidedly upbeat Friday while talking to reporters about the injury that figures to end his streak of 383 consecutive games played, the longest in the majors. Pence said he has broken bones before – a wrist and a little finger – and that “I heal pretty fast, generally.”
The early prognosis is the fracture to his ulna bone will sideline him for 6 to 8 weeks.
“These things happen,” Pence said. “You can never be upset when you’re competing and something like that happens. There’s no malicious intent. It really couldn’t have happened at a much better time. I have a lot of time to get healthy and get back for regular-season games.”
Pence has played in every game since being traded to the Giants in July 2012, but said he hasn’t given much thought to that streak ending. The focus now is on the early steps toward recovery. Thursday night, he researched how to prop his broken arm up to sleep. Friday morning, he asked team doctors if there was anything he could do and was told no.
“Sometimes doing nothing is doing something,” Pence said. “I’m healing, so that is something to do.”
He also found time for a kind gesture toward Black. The Cubs pitcher tweeted Thursday night: “Lost for words. Hope you heal fast @hunterpence hitting someone is never a good feeling. Hurting someone is even worse.”
Pence responded Friday morning: “It happens my friend. Thanks for the concern, it’s a part of the game we love. No slowing down!”
Likewise, Pence said he hopes the Giants won’t miss a beat this spring. Options to replace Pence in right include offseason addition Nori Aoki, Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez and Justin Maxwell, a right-handed hitter with power who is getting a long look in camp. Manager Bruce Bochy said Friday the Giants will give early consideration to putting Aoki in right field and finding a solution for left field as spring develops.
“We’ve got a strong unit,” Pence said. “That’s the key; that’s what the focus is on.
“Regardless of whether or not I’m able to play (early on), the focus is on the team. The focus is on everything we can do to get to the playoffs and chase the dream of winning a World Series, and there’s a huge process involved in that. That’s the main focus, is figuring out how to get the most out of each and every one of us.”
Pence pointed out several positives of the circumstances. For one, the timing gives him a month to heal before the Giants’ season opener on April 6. That it’s his non-throwing arm means the focus when he gets the cast off will be mainly on building strength in his left wrist so he can rotate it following through on swings. He said he isn’t too worried about his hitting timing – he’ll watch games and pitches off a machine to keep up.
Pence said he was overwhelmed by the amount of support he received after Thursday’s game, both from teammates and fans on social media.
“To me, it didn’t feel like it was that big a deal,” he said. “It’s a bone. I’m not dying. … But still, all the concern felt really good. Fan support, it really was pretty special.”
As soon as Black’s pitch struck him, Pence said, he had “a confident feeling that it wasn’t good.” But he stayed positive a day later, even saying the injury could turn out to be “a great blessing.”
“It always finds a way to be that,” he said.
Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015.