SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.–From the first day position players arrived for spring workouts, the lawn beyond the left field fence at Scottsdale Stadium acted as a drivable green on an easy Par-4.
Not every Giants’ player peppered the green with consistency, but left fielder Hunter Pence found himself crushing balls toward the flagstick, or the large light pole resting comfortably beyond left center field, with regularity.
The intense whipping motion from Pence’s bat even sounded like a golfer following through with a driver, but unfortunately for Pence, batting practice was his equivalent of the range. When the lights came on and spring training games started, his stroke was nowhere to be found.
As the oldest player on the Giants’ roster, Pence will turn 35 in mid-April. A former ironman who twice played in all 162 regular season games, Pence enters the final year of his contract facing questions about his durability and whether he’ll be able to hold off hard-charging competition in left field.
An early spring flu didn’t help Pence’s cause, zapping his energy and costing him at-bats. Neither did an adjustment he made at the plate.
“I tried earlier this spring a closed stance and I was working on that, but I actually hit better when I’m open,” Pence said. “That’s the adjustment that I made. I opened up and stopped trying to force it the other way and just trusted my path.”
After starting the spring 1-for-18 with 10 strikeouts, Pence opened up his stance and altered his approach. He’s not necessarily concerned with where his front foot lands anymore, but he is focused on regaining his comfort level and confidence. When he stopped trying to go the other way, Pence finally hit an opposite-field single.
“I was a little off balance,” Pence said. “Really jumpy for awhile and I think that’s part of the timing.”
On Sunday, Pence played in his third straight game, and in all three plate appearances, he maintained his open approach. In his first at-bat of the day, Pence finally drove the green, launching one of the most majestic drives of the spring.
It was a grand slam.
“He got the big blow today, the grand slam, that’s what ended up winning the game,” manager Bruce Bochy said after the Giants’ 5-4 win over the Padres.
If Pence’s mid-spring adjustment helps the veteran leader flip a switch, Bochy will have a variety of ways he can structure the team’s lineup against both left and right-handed …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports