Hunter Pence is inching closer and closer to returning to the field for the San Francisco Giants. After several weeks of rehab, treatment, and live batting practice, Pence finally played in his first game since being hit by a pitch in Spring Training that broke his forearm.
Pence started his rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Friday night. The Giants decided to send him to Sacramento instead of a lower level of the minor leagues, because they didn’t want to risk him facing younger and wilder pitchers.
In front of 12,577 fans at Raley Field on Friday, Pence played five innings and finished the night with a sacrifice fly, a groundout, and a strikeout. He also had an impressive running catch on a pop fly. Most players might ease back into action in their first rehab game, but you know Pence. He’s called Full Throttle for a reason.
After the game, Sacramento Rivercats hitting coach Andy Skeels spoke about Pence’s plate appearances. Lev Facher of the San Francisco Chronicle with the report:
“You know he’s going to be aggressive,” Sacramento hitting coach Andy Skeels said. “His first at-bat, the guy’s got great stuff. And he works a sac fly to right on a tough fastball.”
That was Pence’s most productive plate appearance of the night. He grounded out to shortstop in his second plate appearance and struck out in his third after working the count full. All of Pence’s plate appearances came against Chad Bettis, a right-hander who pitched a combined 691/3 innings for the Rockies the past two seasons.
“I thought he had some good swings,” Skeels said. “I thought he made good adjustments with his hands. (Bettis has) got time in the big leagues as well. He’s not facing some schmo.”
Pence wasn’t made available to the media after the game, so we don’t have an official report from him on how he felt after his first game. However, Giants and Rivercats reporters will most likely get a report today on if Pence feels any sort of lingering pain.
Next up on Pence’s rehab assignment schedule is a seven-inning appearance on Saturday night. After that, he is scheduled to take the day off on Sunday, then play nine innings in back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday, then take another day off on Wednesday, then play nine innings on Thursday, and then nine innings each night for the rest of the Rivercats’ games through May 16th.
After that, Pence could be ready to return to the Giants.
The Giants got off to a rocky start to the 2015 season without Pence, as they went 4-10 in their first 14 games. However, they’ve bounced back and have started to find a rhythm on both offense and defense.
The Giants are now back to being a .500 team, as they currently have a 15-15 record, which puts them in third place in the National League West and just 0.5 games behind the San Diego Padres for second place. They are also 4.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who currently rank first in the division.
When Pence returns, the Giants will add another middle-of-the-order threat to the lineup and will receive some extra power. The Giants have remained steady with Pence out. We’ll see how they respond when Pence comes back.