SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Veteran outfielder Hunter Pence is in Rangers camp on a Minor League contract. By definition, that means he is not guaranteed a spot, and he will have to make the team in Spring Training.Pence reported on Saturday undaunted by the prospect."I have played for 12 years so
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Veteran outfielder Hunter Pence is in Rangers camp on a Minor League contract. By definition, that means he is not guaranteed a spot, and he will have to make the team in Spring Training.
Pence reported on Saturday undaunted by the prospect.
"I have played for 12 years so far in the big leagues," Pence said. "At this age, it is a privilege to have an opportunity and a spot in big league camp ... to get an opportunity to go out and improve yourself and bring everything I can. Ultimately, I wouldn't want it much any other way. I definitely have to get better than last year."
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He may be facing an uphill battle if the Rangers go with an outfield of Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara and decide they have room for just one reserve outfielder. Willie Calhoun has already made a deep impression on the Rangers by the way he worked himself into shape in the offseason.
Pence's advantage is he is a right-handed hitter on a team loaded with left-handed bats, including Gallo, Mazara, Shin-Soo Choo, Ronald Guzmán and Rougned Odor. Pence also has a sterling 12-year reputation for being not only a productive hitter, but also a terrific teammate on championship clubs. He was part of the Giants teams which won World Series in 2012 and '14.\
"He brings an attitude that we've already talked at length about," manager Chris Woodward said. "That belief. He is a world champion and he was a big part of creating that culture where he won that championship. That, to me, sets him apart from a lot of people. I love the guy, he brings everything I would love to see out of a player. It would be great to have. We'll see how the swing plays out."
The swing is the thing. Pence sustained a sprained right thumb early last season and missed six weeks after trying to play through it. He ended up playing in 97 games for the Giants last season, hitting .226/.258/.332 -- all career lows. Pence was determined to do something about it.
He sought out the help of Doug Latta, an independent batting coach working out of the Los Angeles area who was instrumental in transforming Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner into an impact hitter. Latta and Pence talked about mechanical adjustments that included getting his bat quick to the strike zone but then leaving it there longer.
"Simple math," Pence said. "The longer your barrel is in the zone, the better chance you have of hitting it."
Mechanical hitting adjustments are rarely simple, but Pence saw how it worked for Turner and others and was willing to embrace it. He started working with Latta, two days after the season was over and stayed with it into December. Then he went to the Dominican Republic for a short stint of winter ball with Toros del Estes. He went 8-for-29 with a home run in eight games while trying out his new approach.
He'll need to show that and more in Spring Training, but the fact that Pence was willing to go to winter ball after 12 years in the Majors made an impression on the Rangers when it came time to sign him.
"For a guy at that age and [who has] accomplished so much in his career, it says a lot about the character of the guy to re-develop himself," Woodward said.
Pence called it a life-changing experience.
"[I] got to learn about a wonderful country that loves baseball," Pence said. "Played with some amazing teammates and worked on re-inventing myself. Had some success and some failure, learned a lot. If you are not looking to improve, baseball is a game that is constantly changing. There is more science and there is more stuff behind it. If there is a way to get better, I am going to look into it."
• Hitters are supposed to report on Sunday, but all the position players on the 40-man roster are in camp right now.
• Rangers pitchers took a day off from bullpen throwing sessions on Saturday, allowing them to focus on their fielding. Rangers pitchers committed 17 errors last year, tied for the second most in the American League.
• The Rangers officially announced the signing of veteran catcher Adam Moore, and he joined the club on Saturday. Moore played in 104 MLB games over parts of nine seasons. He also has nine years and 630 games of experience in Triple-A.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.