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 honor Bruce Bochy with cannon water salute before final flight

Giants honor Bruce Bochy with cannon water salute before final flight

Talk about going out with a bang. 

As Giants manager Bruce Bochy prepared for his final team flight back to San Francisco on Sunday after his team's 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, his squad paid tribute with commemorative t-shirts, hats, and Bochy’s No. 15 plastered on the outside of the chartered plane in sticker form.

Just before the team plane prepared to depart the Atlanta airport, the Giants arranged for a ceremonial salute fitting for a three-time champion and winner of over 2,000 games as a manager.

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The Giants will close out the 2019 season with six home games in what will be a week-long recognition of one of the franchise’s most successful managers.

Maybe Bochy can use that time in the air to enjoy some of the many gifts he received from opposing teams during his final season.

Giants' Madison Bumgarner convinced balls are juiced: 'No denying it'

Giants' Madison Bumgarner convinced balls are juiced: 'No denying it'

Madison Bumgarner isn't one to mince words, and recently the Giants starting pitcher said what everyone has been thinking.

The balls are juiced.

"There's no denying it," Bumgarner told the San Francisco Chronicle in a story published Friday. "I don't think anybody at this point is denying the ball is different. It's definitely different, and it's affecting a lot of the all-time stats."

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and a simple glance at the home-run leaderboard serves to confirm Bumgarner's suspicion. While New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso is the only player thus far to reach the 50-homer plateau, there are another seven players in the forties, and another 47 in the thirties.

The league's previous home run record -- 6,105, set in 2017 -- was surpassed two weeks ago. There's still a week left in the season. Those are the only two seasons in MLB history with at least 6,000 home runs.

The Giants haven't had a single player with 20 home runs in any of the last three seasons. They already have two this year, with Evan Longoria knocking on the door with 19.

So, it's not as if the Giants' hitters haven't similarly benefitted from a juiced ball. Still, Bumgarner isn't a fan.

"I just don't like it when they change the game so much," he said. "This changes it a lot."

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Given that the current game has basically been turned into a nightly home-run derby, it's not surprising that a pitcher would complain. Of course, Bumgarner has only hit one himself after five previous multi-homer seasons, so maybe he's just frustrated he hasn't been able to take better advantage.