Pence: 'I'm very grateful to be back; it's so fun to play here'
Hunter Pence hit just .219, but drove in 45 runs, in 59 games with the Giants in 2012. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN FRANCISCO – Hunter Pence wants to make one thing clear: “I want to be here.”
After hitting .219 in 59 games since coming to the Giants in a trade deadline deal, Pence will get paid $13.8 million for his services in 2013. If the Giants and Pence don’t agree to an extension in the middle of the season, something the team rarely does, it’s likely the outfielder will hit the free agent market next offseason. While Pence admitted no multi-year deal was discussed before he signed the one-year contract to avoid arbitration, he said he was all ears in case a long-term offer is presented.
“If they were to talk about that, I would definitely be willing to listen,” Pence said Tuesday. “I’m not opposed to that at all.”
For now, Pence is focused on re-discovering the swing that led to a .300-or-better batting average in four of his first seven MLB seasons. He’s spent most of his offseason in Houston, where he’s been training and working on the fundamentals.
“A lot of it is clearing your mind, getting your swing feeling good, and sometimes when you get into a bad feel, it’s tough to get out of it in the middle of the season,” Pence said. “Fortunately, I was somehow able to produce while not having my best swing. But I feel a lot better now.”
Pence produced to the tune of 45 RBI in 59 games with the Giants and 104 on the season, but his .253 average and .425 slugging percentage between San Francisco and Philadelphia in 2012 were both career lows.
“I’m confident I can hit better than I did last year,” Pence said. “Every year I’m looking to improve in all aspects. But the main goal isn’t to improve my average, the main goal is to find a way to win ballgames, however that is.”
Part of Pence’s arsenal is the pregame pep talk, which he used to help the Giants win six elimination games en route to the team’s second World Series title in the last three years.
The dramatic run to another championship included many memorable moments, but Pence remembers the stress more than his sensational sermons.
“It’s the stress that you live for. It was just the collective effort. It was everybody, how we came together. The journey is what made the accomplishment so amazing. Six games of elimination is the path that we chose.”
Pence, along with Buster Posey, avoided arbitration last week and the Giants also brought back Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan with multi-year deals, so the 2013 team will look very similar to the one that enjoyed a parade down Market Street last Halloween. The 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers will have plenty of new faces, though, and Pence isn’t taking the Giants’ rivals lightly.
“The Dodgers were really good, especially at the end of the year, and they’re going to be really good next year,” Pence said.
Pence, a Texas native, said he switched allegiances from the Dallas Cowboys to the Houston Texans, but made it clear he will support the 49ers when they take on the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
He wouldn’t make a prediciton, though.
“I’m not a football analyst, but I’m rooting for San Francisco,” Pence said. “[Colin] Kaepernick is incredible.”