Hunter Pence had just finished addressing reporters in the Giants’ clubhouse about his impending return to the lineup when a few lockers down, outfielder Gregor Blanco let out a loud, seemingly unprompted: “Woo!”
“Woooo!” Pence rejoined.
This, perhaps as much as his powerful bat and manic defense in right field, is what the Giants have missed during Pence’s absence following hamstring surgery. He’s seemingly always energetic and always positive. And the Giants, right now, could use some energy.
For much of Thursday night’s 4-2 loss to the Washington Nationals – their 10th in their last 12 games – the Giants seemed lifeless, particularly on offense. Pence is expected to be activated Saturday, but manager Bruce Bochy said he hoped Pence’s presence at AT&T Park on Friday would give the Giants a spark.
“Just to see him around, he’s such a positive guy, he’s got so much energy, he’s so inspirational, that it’s going to give these guys a lift,” Bochy said. “With that said, we’ve got to get better at some things here, really all facets of the game. But a guy like that, he does a lot for a ballclub, means a lot to us, and the intangibles are really huge with him.”
Bochy said the Giants determined that Pence, after playing rehab games the last several days for Triple-A Sacramento, needed a day off Friday before being activated; Pence was “fine with the program,” Bochy added.
Pence, who has missed the last 47 games, said his “legs feel good” and he is eager to return.
“I play the game with a lot of emotion, a lot of energy,” Pence said. “Hopefully I can pour some of that vibe onto the field and give them a boost and come ready to help.”
Pence’s numbers on his rehab assignment indicate he’s ready to help the Giants pick up their struggling offense. He went 10 for 24 in seven rehab games with three home runs and seven RBIs. He credited the Giants’ training staff and hitting coaches with helping him recover quickly from the surgery and keeping his eye trained by working with him on the pitching machine even when he was unable to swing.
“(Saturday) he’ll be in the lineup, and that’s good news,” Bochy said. “The leg feels great and he feels like he’s ready to go. The staff watched him and they feel the same.”
The Giants have a new player in uniform Friday night: They activated Eduardo Nunez, whom they acquired from the Twins on Thursday. He will be available off of the bench after spending most of Friday traveling. The Giants optioned Jarrett Parker back to Triple A to clear a roster spot for Nunez.
Bochy said he has already mulled possible lineup changes with Nunez in the fold. The 29-year-old infielder was leading the American League with 27 stolen bases at the time of the trade and brings a speed dynamic the Giants previously lacked.
“I think it’s fair to say we’re not a power-hitting club, so this gives us another way to hopefully put some runs across the board,” Bochy said. “Use more speed and, as we always say, keep the line moving.”
The Giants acquired Nunez partly to fill in at third base as Matt Duffy recovers from an Achilles injury. Bochy said Duffy is making progress: He ran bases for a second consecutive day Friday and could begin a rehab assignment this weekend, likely Sunday.
“He’s doing great,” Bochy said. “Had a great day of running, doesn’t feel any soreness.”