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Kapler explains difficulty of telling Pence he'd been DFA'd

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Giants manager Gabe Kapler got to experience one of the best parts of his job on Wednesday night when he joined president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris in calling Joey Bart and telling him he was coming up to the big leagues. Three nights later, Kapler had to do one of the worst parts of his job. 

Kapler sat down with struggling veteran Hunter Pence after Saturday's game and informed him that he was being designated for assignment, ending for a second time -- and for good -- a run in San Francisco that is as Forever Giant as it gets. 

"Perhaps the most difficult part of the job is telling a meaningful member of the Giants family that he is not going to be on our roster going forward," Kapler said Sunday morning. "It was a very difficult conversation last night. Hunter has meant so much to the Giants and the community and to this team as well."

Originally acquired at the trade deadline in 2012, Pence already had one emotional goodbye at Oracle Park. He rode out on a scooter in 2018, but "The Reverend" had one last comeback in him. Pence retooled his swing that winter, took the unprecedented step of going to the Dominican Republic as an established veteran to get at-bats, and won a job in Texas Rangers camp last spring. He wasn't just a motivational speaker, either. Pence was an All-Star, crushing lefties to such an extent that Zaidi and Harris, who had no previous ties to Pence, brought him back on the eve of FanFest to boost a lineup filled with platoons. 

 

The Giants are hitting lefties well this season, ranking sixth in the Majors with a .858 OPS and second with 17 homers. But Pence has just three hits in 28 at-bats against them and just five overall, good for a .096 batting average. 

Kapler did not go into depth about why the move was made Sunday, when the Giants added infielder Daniel Robertson to the 40-man roster and Sam Coonrod back to the active roster. But he didn't have to. Pence's numbers speak for themselves, and a team that's won five straight and all of a sudden has a dangerous lineup, couldn't afford any more off nights. 

"We have a lot of guys that need to get reps," Kapler said. 

That doesn't mean this was at all an easy call. Pence is one of the most popular players in franchise history, and even without fans in the seats, his presence carried weight. Kapler, like Bruce Bochy before him, found Pence to be extremely valuable in the clubhouse, and it was notable that in down times earlier this year, several players pointed to Pence as the one keeping the clubhouse positive. 

"Through some of these struggles he's never lost his positive outlook, he's never lost his energy in the clubhouse," Kapler said. "I think his teammates and the coaching staff really appreciate that."

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That attitude should allow Pence to one day return to the organization in some capacity. He has been a tireless supporter of younger players -- Bart was glued to Pence's hip during summer camp workouts -- and could find some role with the Giants down the line. For now, it's unclear what the immediate future holds. Kapler said he could see Pence playing again if he wants to, although with a month left in a short season, it may be hard to find a home. 

The Bay Area has become that for a one-of-a-kind player who grew up in Texas but met his wife in San Francisco and has embraced all that the city has to offer. But from a baseball perspective, that journey ended Saturday night. 

"It's a loss," Kapler said. "Last night he could not have handled that conversation any more professionally. He came with a lot of gratitude, said thank you to everyone in the clubhouse, the front office, ownership. He came off as super grateful. That's who Hunter is."