With future up in the air, Hunter Pence making the most of rehab assignment


With future up in the air, Hunter Pence making the most of rehab assignment

SACRAMENTO -- The scene at Raley Field on Saturday afternoon was a bit of a surreal one. After every round of batting practice at the minor league park, Hunter Pence would step a few feet from the cage and chat with Madison Bumgarner. 

Both have helped the Giants to multiple championships. Both are beloved in the city of San Francisco. Both are on rehab assignments. But right now, their situations could not be more different. 

Bumgarner was in Sacramento for the start of what will be a short rehab assignment. Pence is finishing up the second week of a second stint with the River Cats, and it's unclear what the Giants will do. They have six days to make a decision, whether that's calling Pence up, releasing him, or perhaps talking to him about staying in the minors a bit longer.

The third conversation has not been had yet. It probably doesn't matter, anyway. It's clear where Pence would like to be.

"I'm ready to play right now," Pence said. "This is where they want me right now, apparently, and so I'm going to go play as hard as I can where they want me."

There was never any doubt that Pence would do that, and teammates here say he has handled this potentially awkward assignment better than anyone else could. He has been a mentor for younger players, many of whom have come through minor league camp the past two seasons. Pence smiled his way through a pre-game workout Saturday and he has been a regular on the autograph line. He also has not taken this rehab stint for granted.

When Pence and the Giants decided to pause a previous assignment on May 6, he didn't just sit around and wait for his thumb to heal. He flew to Los Angeles for a few days and spent time with Doug Latta, a private instructor who overhauled Justin Turner's swing and has now found success with Mac Williamson.

"I'm very happy with it. I feel a lot better at the plate," Pence said. "I always think you've always got to adjust and improve."

The early results are promising. Pence is 20-for-54 since returning, with three doubles and a grand slam. He is standing more upright, with his hands a bit more relaxed, but the big stride and powerful swing remain. As Pence described it, "it's still me."

"I still haven't mastered it," he said. "I'm still improving every day, but I feel a lot better at the plate each day. Since the adjustment, I have a really good idea of what I want to do and I've felt way better."

Now, it's up to the front office to decide how they feel. There have been no indications that a decision is close, but players at two levels are watching. Mac Williamson is the everyday left fielder in the big leagues, but down here, you'll find plenty who believe Pence at the very least deserves another shot on the roster. Pence won't ruffle any feathers. But he would like another run. That's why he flew down to Los Angeles.

"I want to learn everything I can to be the best player I can to help us win," he said. "The ultimate goal is to win the World Series, and you've got to be the best player you can to do that."

Watch Giants' Brandon Crawford, Mike Yastrzemski hit back-to-back homers


Watch Giants' Brandon Crawford, Mike Yastrzemski hit back-to-back homers

Clear your October plans, Giants fans. 

The Giants somehow are the hottest team in baseball, winning eight of their last 10 games. And they couldn't have started off their doubleheader against the Rockies at Coors Field any better Monday morning. 

Brandon Belt and Buster Posey each singled to start the top of the first inning before Pablo Sandoval surprisingly squared for a sacrifice bunt. The Alex Dickerson train continued with the left fielder scoring Belt on a line drive to right field. But that was just the beginning for the red-hot Giants. 

Brandon Crawford and Mike Yastrzemski hit back-to-back jacks to give the Giants a 5-0 lead in the first inning over the Rockies. Crawford went opposite field for a 366-foot three-run homer, his seventh dinger of the year. Yaz followed him with a 433-foot shot to right-center field for a solo shot, his sixth homer this season. 

The Giants entered Monday only 4.5 games back of the second spot in the NL Wild Card standings. While they still appear to be in sell mode before the July 31 trade deadline, anything could happen once a team catches fire.

Giants place Evan Longoria on 10-day injured list with plantar fasciitis

Giants place Evan Longoria on 10-day injured list with plantar fasciitis

DENVER -- Before playing four games at Coors Field, the Giants were forced to make a move with one of their hottest bats. 

Third baseman Evan Longoria was placed on the 10-day injured list with plantar fasciitis and right-hander Ray Black returned to the active roster to provide some pitching depth for a doubleheader. Longoria came out of Sunday's game with left foot pain, something he said has bothered him off and on throughout his career.

Longoria was scheduled to get an MRI on Monday. 

With six homers in his last nine games, Longoria has been a key part of the July surge. He leads the team with 13 homers, and the injury leaves the Giants with a right-handed hole in their lineup.

Pablo Sandoval will start at third base for the first game of Monday's doubleheader and the Giants do have some depth on their roster. Donovan Solano and Austin Slater both can play third base if needed, although Slater would be miscast as a starter.

At the Triple-A level, Zach Green is an obvious choice. The 25-year-old has 22 homers but has been blocked from a promotion because Longoria and Sandoval are at third and Brandon Belt is at first, Green's other position. Green is not on the 40-man roster, so the Giants would have to make additional moves if they were to take a look at a player they added in the offseason. 

[RELATED: Report: Giants, Brewers 'engaged' in Smith trade talks]

In a separate move, right-hander Sam Coonrod was added as the 26th man for the doubleheader. The Giants will need to make another move Monday afternoon when they activate Dereck Rodriguez to start the second game. 

It's been a busy stretch for the front office. Black was optioned on Sunday to clear room for starter Tyler Beede, but he stayed with the team and flew to Denver on Sunday night.