SAN FRANCISCO Hunter Pence loves coffee, especially when it comes inbig mugs. He shared those thoughts while greeting Giants fans in a videoposted to his Twitter account Wednesday morning.
Pence's playing style is caffeinated enough, as his new fans areabout to learn. The two-time All-Star is all effort and rapid movement on the field, even if itdoesnt always look smooth and under control.
Ive got to be honest, he said, in the hours prior to hisGiants debut Wednesday night. Every now and then, I do things you dont see veryoften.
Like crash into his third-base coach. Or shatter asliding-glass door by smacking into it like a blind pigeon. Or take swings inthe on-deck circle that feel perfectly normal, and look anything but.
The truth is, and I hate to admit it Pence said, but thefirst time I watched it, it was disturbing.
They love Pences ability to drive in runs, impact thebaseball and make things happen on the field. Pence is hitting fifth andstarting in right field Wednesday night; when Pablo Sandoval returns from hisstrained hamstring, the Giants will be able to run out a 3-through-6 of MelkyCabrera, Buster Posey, Pence and Sandoval.
That might be their best middle-of-the-order since the Bondsera.
And unlike last Julys acquisition of Carlos Beltran, Penceisnt a pure rental. Hes eligible for arbitration one more time after thisyear and cant become a free agent until after the 2013 season.
For that reason, Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged theenthusiasm has a different pitch with Pence than it did with Beltran.
Oh, I think so, said Bochy, who loved the fact that Pencehit the weight room after stepping off a six-hour flight Tuesday night. Theplayers, the staff, across the board, they know that. Hes on board for nextyear, too. It should give you a good feeling knowing hell be here next yearand theres no possibility hell move on. The guys know that, too. Hes a Giantand hell be here awhile.
Well, thats a cart-before-the-horse issue for now. But whenPence was asked if hed be open to signing a long-term extension, his answer stoppedjust short of, Where do I sign?
Absolutely. That would be wonderful, the 29-year-old Texasnative said. Itd be wonderful to have a home and settle in.
Has he seen real estate prices in the Bay Area? Well maybenot. But Pence said hes never been offered a solid commitment from a club. Sohe would be all ears if the Giants pay him that respect, as GM Brian Sabean hasintimated he plans to do.
Ive never been offered anything, Pence said. Id loveto.
It was pointed out that the Phillies were signing plenty ofplayers long-term.
Not everybody, Pence said. Look how long it took Cole(Hamels) to get it. They have a lot of people theyre paying over there. But that should probably be the last thing I should be talking about. So sorry.
He was just showing me it could bounce anywhere, and it canbounce hard or it can bounce soft, Pence said. And when its hit hard in theright field corner, you can throw em out at second.
Pence doesnt throw from a textbook. His stork-like bodydoesnt do anything the way its taught. His back knee almost touches the dirtwhen he hits. Coaches tried to change him at every stop (including atUT-Arlington, where he played in the shadow of former Giant Daniel Ortmeier),but he had the confidence to know that his way worked.
I try to do the best with what Ive got, Pence said.There are some distinct things, but everyone wants to get in a good position.You want to be short to the ball and long through it.
He acknowledged his swing hasnt been in sync most of thisseason, especially with runners in scoring position. Hes hitting just .238 inthose situations, and he knows the Giants are counting on him to deliver especially with two outs, since his new clubs .197 average in those clutchmoments is the second worst in the majors.
First of all, its more than likely going to get better,Pence said. My swing hasnt necessarily been in the greatest rhythm. But thedowns bring you to the ups. Well find out in the next two months, but Imworking on it.
Asked what he wants to improve, Pence delivered acrowd-pleaser of an answer.
Id like to have more home runs, more RBIs, more runsscored and more average, he said, not smiling for a change. The only thingbetter than hits is more hits.
Some things wont change. Pence is keeping the high-sockslook hes sported his whole career, whether Im good looking or not goodlooking.
Hes eager to get the home-field treatment at McCovey Cove,for a change starting tonight.
Whenever anyone asked my favorite road city Id say thisone, said Pence, recalling one clever but relentless fan from his time playinghere with the Astros.
One lady called me bird legs all game, Pence said. Itwas Hey bird legs! You know you cant hit the ball out of the infield.
It went on all game. Hey bird legs! Dont pull up yourpants like that to hide your shortcomings.
You couldnt help but laugh.