Giants

Former Giant Hunter Pence finding success in Texas with rebuilt swing

Former Giant Hunter Pence finding success in Texas with rebuilt swing

OAKLAND – Hunter Pence spent seven seasons as a fan favorite in San Francisco, helping the Giants to World Series championships in 2012 and 2014. This week, he's back in the Bay Area as a member of the Texas Rangers.

"It always brings me good joy to be here," Pence said Monday. "I have a house in the city, so I got to sleep in that house and that was cool. It's always fun to be here."

Pence and the Rangers are in Oakland for a three-game series against the A's. The Fort Worth native signed a minor-league contract with his hometown team this offseason and made the big-league roster out of spring training. After a disappointing 2018 season with the Giants where Pence slashed just .226/.258/.332, the 36-year-old decided to completely revamp his swing. So far, it's paying off. In 11 games, Pence is slashing .281/.314/.469 with two home runs and six RBI.

"I feel somewhat like a rookie every day because, with a complete swing change, I'm learning and getting a little bit better each and every day," he said. "I'm trying to tweak and make it more consistent. But it's a lot of fun because it's new, so everything is fresh. I'm just really enjoying that process."

Pence actually played winter ball in the Dominican Republic for the first time this offseason to work on the swing changes. He admits it hasn't been an easy process, but he remains fully committed.

"I had to make a change," he said. "I had to get better and I had to trust the process. I made the decision. If you're going to play in this league, you have to contribute and you have to be able to help. I wouldn't want to be here unless I was able to contribute. I truly felt that this was the best opportunity to do that, to continue to do what I love."

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To Pence, the decision to rebuild his swing represented what might be his last chance to contribute at the major league level.

"I just completely bought in," Pence said. "If it wasn't meant to be, then I gave it everything I had, and whatever. But right now, it brings me a lot of joy, a lot of passion to come and play the game that I love. It's really exciting with something new. It's a fun new way to approach baseball and it feels like it helps you a lot. It works, so I feel good about it."

Pence looks back fondly on his time in the Bay Area but he's equally excited for this current opportunity to play for his hometown team.

"It's a lot of fun," he said. "It's a lot of in both places. I'm very fortunate everywhere I've gotten to play, I've loved every city. I think every city has different uniqueness and different things to enjoy and appreciate. Both have been great opportunities. ... (San Francisco) feels like a second home for me, for sure."

Pence and the Rangers are off to a surprising 12-8 start this season. While he will always cherish the great memories he created in San Francisco, he is completely focused on the present.

"I'm super happy with all that and in love with all that," Pence said of his achievements with the Giants. "But right now, I'm fully into playing with the Rangers and giving it everything I've got. We have a really exciting young team. I'm embracing this moment right now. I may reflect when I'm done, but right now I'm in the fire."

Giants say they won't include Aubrey Huff in 2010 World Series reunion

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Giants say they won't include Aubrey Huff in 2010 World Series reunion

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants do celebrations and nostalgia better than anyone, and quite a bit of time will be devoted this season to looking back at the 2010 team that finally brought a title to San Francisco. But a key member of that team will not be invited to Oracle Park because of tweets he sent this offseason. 

The Giants have told Aubrey Huff, the starting first baseman on that team, that he is not welcome at the ballpark when they celebrate the 2010 championship. 

"Earlier this month, we reached out to Aubrey Huff to let him know that he will not be included in the upcoming 2010 World Series Championship reunion," the organization said Monday in a statement. "Aubrey has made multiple comments on social media that are unacceptable and run counter to the values of our organization. While we appreciate the many contributions that Aubrey made to the 2010 championship season, we stand by our decision."

The Athletic first reported Monday that Huff would not be included, and the 43-year-old told the website that he was "shocked" and "disappointed" by the decision.

"If it wasn't for me, they wouldn't be having a reunion," Huff told The Athletic. "But if they want to stick with their politically correct, progressive b------t, that's fine."

Huff hit .290 with 26 homers for the 2010 Giants and then dropped off over the next two years. He resurfaced years later with a Twitter account that often goes for shock value but crossed the line two notable times in the offseason. Giants officials were particularly taken aback by two tweets. 

In November, Huff tweeted a photo from a gun range with the caption "Getting my boys trained up on how to use a gun in the unlikely event" that Bernie Sanders beats Donald Trump in the 2020 election. In January, he tweeted about taking a flight to Iran to "kidnap about 10" women, writing "bring them back here as they fan us and feed us grapes, amongst other things."

[RELATED: Kapler shares short message to Giants' full spring squad]

Huff has not been around the ballpark much since retiring, but he came back to San Francisco in September for Bruce Bochy's final game, receiving a mixed reaction from the crowd. 

The Giants plan to celebrate the 2010 team on Aug. 16 and give out replica rings to the fans in attendance.

Gabe Kapler shares short message to Giants' spring training full squad

Gabe Kapler shares short message to Giants' spring training full squad

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Gabe Kapler has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he wants the Giants to be more prepared than their opponents, so it seemed likely that he would spend weeks working on the exact speech he would give when the full squad assembled for the first time on February 17.

But the first meeting was not a marathon. There was no dramatic speech, just a quick message from Kapler, one from Farhan Zaidi, some words from a couple of veterans, and then the Giants hit the field and began playing catch. 

"Players on Day 1, the thing they want to do the most is to get out on the field and compete," Kapler said. "So to squeeze everything in to Day 1 for the pageantry maybe doesn't make as much sense as to try to share those messages on a daily basis."

Kapler will have plenty of time to spread his beliefs. During his first day leading the full roster, he simply wanted the players to compete and to get used to some subtle changes. The Giants brought a machine out to throw sliders to hitters after they had taken a couple of rounds of batting practice, giving them a chance to hit breaking balls much sooner than they normally would.

Kapler said he was encouraged by how many players took advantage of the extra opportunity. 

"Those slider machines are not comfortable for players, particularly when they haven't seen a lot of pitches," Kapler said. "So to see the engagement and the buy-in was really cool. Our hitting coaches did a great job of making it a menu option, and then it was even cooler to see our players select the more difficult and challenging practice."

Kapler and the staff had a week to get pitchers and catchers used to some new ways of practicing and the emphasis on competition, but it was a bit different when the position players showed up. The bullpen is basically a wide-open competition and it's unclear who the fifth starter will be along with the backup catcher.

But the starting lineup is a bit more set, with veterans at catcher, first, short and third and roster options like Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence already in place. 

You could say there's far less competition on the position player side, but that's not how the Giants want their players viewing it. Evan Longoria, who played with Kapler in Tampa Bay, said it was good to see how much emphasis is being put on winning jobs this spring. Even the core veterans are being made to feel pushed a bit. 

[RELATED: Giants use umpires during bullpens, ramp up spring intensity]

"There are a lot of jobs open, there's a lot of things that guys are going to be competing for in camp, which is great," Longoria said. "Hopefully we see some of that fire come out, friendly competition or real. It's not really friendly, you know. Guys are playing for their livelihood and it's a job, so I love seeing that competitive nature come out in guys.

"It was good to hear guys stand up and I think it's really good to get those things out there in the open from the beginning."