OAKLAND -- Now 36 years old and coming off a tough season, Hunter Pence knew he had to overhaul his technique to remain in the Major Leagues.
Pence is here now -- more specifically, he was at the Oakland Coliseum with the Rangers in Monday’s opener of a three-game series. It was his first visit to Northern California since he finished his seven-year stint with the cross-bay Giants.
“Coming to San Francisco feels like a second home to me,” said Pence, who has kept his house in the Bay Area and slept there Sunday night.
In a way, Pence is launching a second career. The 13-year veteran spent his offseason essentially becoming a new ballplayer, spending more than a month hitting daily with Southern California guru Doug Latta. Recording career single-season lows in batting average (.226), on-base percentage (.258) and slugging percentage (.332) in 2018 compelled Pence to take drastic measures.
A lifetime .280 batter who helped the Giants win the World Series in 2012 and '14, Pence knew that he would have to fight for his Major League life during Spring Training.
“With the way it was, I had to make a change, had to get better and I had to trust the process,” Pence said.
Pence then took a step that most ballplayers with his experience would skip: He joined Toros del Este of the Dominican Winter League to implement his alterations at the plate. He hit .276/.290/.414 with one home run and six RBIs in eight games.
None of this was overwhelming. But Pence was still adjusting.
“I didn’t do great in winter ball,” Pence said. “But I was relearning every day. Like a rookie.”
Second baseman Rougned Odor (right knee) is expected to take batting practice on Tuesday. If all goes well, he will likely begin a Minor League rehab assignment shortly after.