SCOTTSDALE — Hunter Pence is preparing for his 12th big league season, so he probably wasn’t too worried that he carried a .105 batting average into Sunday’s game. But that doesn’t mean a first-inning grand slam didn’t carry some significance.
“It matters,” Pence said. “These games, we’re competing. I got the opportunity with some guys table-setting and (Luis Perdomo) had thrown a bunch of balls so I tried to be ready if he threw one over the plate.”
Perdomo’s first pitch did just that and Pence crushed it to straightaway center. The 440-foot blast was his first of the spring and carried over the momentum he started to feel in his third at-bat Saturday. Pence said he tried to close his stance earlier this spring, but he opened back up after striking out twice in his first two at-bats Saturday, and he ended up with a single to right. He kept his stance open Sunday and felt he had more balance.
“I feel better about the path (of the swing) and my balance,” he said. “I was a little off-balance before, getting a little jumpy.”
When Pence isn’t right, he often looks like he’s lunging at the ball. But he’s working on his timing with new assistant hitting coach Rick Schu, who has been showing him videos and photos of his swing from times when he was having success. Pence has also been doing swing work in front of the mirror, trying to find the right foundation.
Sunday’s results surely had the staff breathing a bit easier. Pence had been off to a rough start, and it looked like some of last year’s struggles would carry over. At the same time, the Giants have seen younger outfielders, particularly Mac Williamson, take serious strides. Pence didn’t seem to be hearing any footsteps. He lit up when asked about Williamson’s revamped swing, which has led to four homers this spring.
“He’s such a strong athlete and now he’s got a foundation that he can trust,” Pence said.