Pence 'absolutely' would sign long-term with Giants


Pence 'absolutely' would sign long-term with Giants

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.

REWIND: Pence has 'refreshing' arrival to AT&T Park

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.

The Giants will take all of Pences idiosyncrasies afteracquiring him from the Philadelphia Phillies for Nate Schierholtz, Double-Acatcher Tommy Joseph and Single-A right-hander Seth Rosin.

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.

How long?

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.

Pence had plenty of other more urgent matters on Thursday,like learning the signs and going out early with outfield coach Roberto Kellyto learn the intricacies of right field at AT&T Park.

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.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days. 

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The “options game” can be a cruel one. It can also be one of the most important parts of spring training. 

If two players are relatively even at the end of camp but only one can be optioned to the minors, he’s usually the man left out. Giants officials have already made reference to this several times in discussing left field, where Jarrett Parker — who is out of options — would surely be claimed off waivers if the Giants try to sneak him back to the minors before Opening Day. Mac Williamson, on the other hand, can be shuttled back and forth. 

The same holds true for Kelby Tomlinson, and while it was easy during the first week of camp to see him as the odd man out, manager Bruce Bochy said that’s not the case. What do all the veteran infielders mean for the young one already in-house?

“It hasn’t affected anything for Kelby, really,” Bochy said. “It’s all about competition for spots on this team.”

Tomlinson played 54 games in 2015 and 52 a year ago, but the Giants put a clear emphasis this offseason on finding backup infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, Orlando Calixte and Gordon Beckham were among those brought in before camp, and Aaron Hill arrived on the fourth day. Sure, Ehire Adrianza — who was seemingly perpetually out of options — is no longer around, but if the Giants carry just two backup infielders, one of them will almost certainly be Conor Gillaspie. 

Tomlinson isn’t bothered by the offseason of additions. He said he can take knowledge away from six weeks spent with guys he grew up watching.

“Rollins’ prime was right in my later high school years,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot of guys to learn from and watch. It’s a little of both (a competition and learning experience). We’re all fighting for the same job, but we’re still on the same team and we’re all trying to learn from each other and help each other.”

Tomlinson is the incumbent, and the Giants certainly know all about his speed and ability to play all over the field (he continued to take fly balls this winter, just in case). They also now know that Tomlinson adds something that’s needed on any bench. Last season, he emerged as one of Bochy’s most reliable pinch-hitters. 

Tomlinson’s seven pinch-hits were tied for second on the team after Gillaspie’s 11. He was 7-for-17 in a pinch, adding three walks. Tomlinson’s simple swing and up-the-middle approach have proven perfect for important spots. He’s a .315 career hitter with runners in scoring position, a .373 hitter in situations baseball-reference deems “late and close,” and a .367 hitter in “high leverage” spots.

“I’m just trying to compete up there every at-bat, especially in that pinch-hitting role,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a grind, but that makes it fun when you give the team a quality at-bat. Even if it’s not a hit, you go up there and try to see five pitches and have a good at-bat.”

Tomlinson has given the Giants plenty of them over parts of two seasons. With Brandon Crawford headed for the World Baseball Classic, he is sure to see increased time this spring, and while the options game or non-roster list might catch up to him, the Giants haven’t forgotten what they already have. 

“He gives us versatility,” Bochy said, “So he’s in the mix, too.”