Giants

Hunter Pence ready for winter ball after swing, running style changes

Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- On his last day with the Giants at AT&T Park, Hunter Pence stood in front of his locker and excitedly talked of the swing changes he'd start making during the first week of the offseason.

It turns out the overhaul included more than just his swing.

Pence also has made changes to the way he runs, which previously was nearly as unique as his swing, as he continues to work toward what he hopes will be another sprint to the postseason in 2019. He'll soon test his new swing and running style in games. On Dec. 5, Pence will travel to La Romana in the Dominican Republic to begin a winter ball stint.

First, he's headed back to San Francisco for two events.

On Saturday, Pence will be back at AT&T Park to represent Gone Rogue High Protein Chips at the Spartan Race. He partnered with Gone Rogue this offseason while using the protein chips in his daily training regimen. Three days later, Pence and his wife, Alexis, will be honored at the Holiday Heroes event at AT&T Park. The honor goes to athletes who have used their platform to make a difference for underserved children in the Bay Area. 

The next day, it's off to the Dominican, where Pence will represent Toros del Este. In a phone conversation Friday morning, the 35-year-old said he was excited about testing his new swing against live pitching. 

 

"I really want to go and immerse myself in winter ball, and really feel it out and see if I can make the adjustments," Pence said. "I've made the swing adjustments and done the training and done all of the work, but I want to produce for a team and work to win the World Series. I want to bring something to help a team win. I'm going to go out there and take that same intention to winter ball and implement the swing changes, and if the stars are aligned, I'll continue looking for a team to make in spring training."

Pence said he already has heard from a couple of teams since becoming a free agent for the first time, but his focus primarily has been on making changes. He first worked with swing coach Doug Latta during the season, visiting Los Angeles during his rehab assignment and trying to implement tweaks that have helped Justin Turner, Mac Williamson and others.

Pence said he actually first heard of Latta three years ago, when Marlon Byrd had a short late-season run with the Giants. Byrd also worked with Latta and enjoyed a late-career renaissance, playing until he was 38. Pence has trained with Byrd at times this offseason, which has consisted of very little rest. 

Two days after he rode off on a scooter, Pence was in Los Angeles for his first session. He hits for 90 minutes a day before heading to a workout. Pence ditched his new-look swing soon after returning to the majors this summer, and it didn't take him long this offseason to figure out why it was so hard to implement changes during his rehab assignment.

"There were a lot of moves that when I went and tried them during the season, I didn't even have the mobility to incorporate the move properly, and I didn't understand them properly," he said.

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Two months into his offseason, that has changed, along with, he said, his former running style. He has worked with a specialist on that, too, although there's not nearly as much work to be done. While Pence hit just .226 with four homers last season, his sprint-speed numbers still were among the best on the team.

In a week, Pence will begin to find out if his swing can match the physical gifts that remain. He said he's excited, noting that he's very fortunate to already have played this long, and he's looking forward to extending his career.

"The game has changed so much," Pence said. "Pitchers have advanced a lot since I entered the league, and hitting has changed. Doug Latta and some of these other hitting schools that are teaching that underneath path are really changing the game. I'm excited to put it all together."