Hunter Pence's debut has Giants manager Bruce Bochy optimistic
Hunter Pence arrived at Scottsdale Stadium on Friday morning to find his name missing from the lineup posted on the wall outside the Giants’ clubhouse. This surprised Pence, who expected to play in a game for the first time this spring after being delayed by a bout of tendinitis in his right Achilles’ tendon.
“I guess they told me I was playing (Friday), and this morning (trainer Dave Groeschner) was like, ‘Well, we didn’t watch him do this one thing,’ ” Pence said. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ ”
The Giants wanted to see Pence run out of the batter’s box after a swing. So after taking batting practice Friday morning, Pence walked to a back field accompanied by Groeschner and did it. Just before noon, a new lineup sheet replaced the old one outside the clubhouse, this time with Pence playing right field and batting fifth.
Two hours later, the Giants watched Pence run out of the box again after hitting a two-run homer off Seattle’s Joel Peralta in Pence’s second at-bat against live pitching since last August. The ball landed among fans sitting near the top of the grassy area beyond the visiting bullpen in left field.
“Yeah, how about that?” manager Bruce Bochy said after the Giants’ 5-4 loss. “I mean, he was so excited today, there was no holding him back.”
It was the highlight of a busy spring training debut for Pence, who also fielded several balls in the outfield and reported afterward that “everything went well.” It was the first game action for Pence since he suffered an abdominal strain last Aug. 17, and he admitted feeling “over-amped” when he ran out to right field in the top of the first inning.
“It’s special to get back out there,” said Pence, who went 1 for 2. “I waited a long time. To be able to be on the field, playing in a game, felt really, really good.”
It used to be the Giants couldn’t keep Pence off the field. He held the longest consecutive games played streak in the majors until last April, when a fractured arm in spring training forced him to start the season on the disabled list. That led to a season in which Pence appeared in just 52 games for the Giants, and their 34-18 record in those games underscored his value.
It’s special to get back out there. I waited a long time. To be able to be on the field, playing in a game, felt really, really good.
Giants outfielder Hunter Pence
This year, Bochy said, with the Giants loading up to make another run at the National League West, Pence will receive more rest to ensure he stays healthy for the full season. But Pence expressed Friday that will not alter his playing style.
“I don’t think my goal is to be careful,” he said. “I’m coming with everything I’ve got.”
Pence had to cover significant ground in the outfield on several occasions Friday. In the second inning, he was unable to cut off a ball hit into the right-center field gap that resulted in a triple for Efren Navarro. In the fourth, though, Pence made a running catch of a curving liner hit by Navarro into the right-field corner.
“I didn’t want him to get tested that much, to be honest, but he says he feels fine,” said Bochy, who plans to rest Pence on Saturday and have him back in the lineup Sunday.
Pence said the running catch actually was less a test of his Achilles’ tendon than it might have seemed because he made it moving in a straight line. Pence said he still feels he needs to get quick at changing directions and that “stopping and starting is a little slower than I want it to be.”
The catch was the final out recorded by Giants starter Jeff Samardzija, who gave up three runs on six hits in his third start of the spring. Samardzija appreciated Pence’s offensive support.
I don’t think my goal is to be careful. I’m coming with everything I’ve got.
Giants outfielder Hunter Pence
“I’m very pro-home team home runs when I’m pitching,” Samardzija said. “So I liked it a lot.”
Samardzija, who shares with Pence an imposing physicality and outgoing personality, has only been around his new Giants teammates for a few weeks but said he admires Pence’s “energy” and thinks he and Pence are “cut from the same cloth.” Pence said playing with Samardzija for the first time Friday was “awesome.”
“I don’t know why the word ‘charm’ comes up, but he looks like he’s just a kid having fun,” Pence said. “That’s what I love to feel like out there. I feel like a kid having fun and just getting after it.”
Notes – Giants reliever Santiago Casilla is expected to make his spring training debut Saturday, when the Giants have split-squad games at home against the Diamondbacks and away against the Angels.
▪ Reliever Sergio Romo is scheduled to face hitters in a live batting practice.
▪ Starter Matt Cain, who’s recovering from surgery to remove a cyst from his right arm, is expected to throw a bullpen session Saturday and then possibly to hitters.