Pence's arrival gives Giants jolt in NL West race
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)
Hunter Pence plopped his bright red Philadelphia Phillies duffle bag into his new locker, squeezed between Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson in one corner of the San Francisco Giants clubhouse with a temporary white plaque marked in black: ''Pence 8.''
''There he is!'' Lincecum said, taking a break from talking to some 20 reporters about Pence's addition after the Giants beat the Mets 4-1 on Tuesday night. He gave Pence a handshake-hug, asked about his father - the two share the same agency and both their dads are friends - and quickly returned to answering questions.
No time for small talk.
The Giants are in the thick of a tight NL West race.
San Francisco hopes trading for the two-time All-Star right fielder from Philadelphia brings more than just excitement and intrigue. The Giants sent outfielder Nate Schierholtz, minor league catcher Tommy Joseph and minor league right-hander Seth Rosin to the Phillies in a move just before the non-waived trade deadline Tuesday for Pence to provide some pop and power to a lineup soaring lacking it.
''He's a dynamic player,'' Posey said. ''He's not only going to help us with his bat, but just with the energy he brings.''
Pence's journey to San Francisco was a hectic one.
He woke up to a flurry of text messages and calls in Washington while with the Phillies - ''I think a lot of people knew before I knew,'' Pence said - and got confirmation when Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro called while Pence was heading to the ballpark in a taxi.
Philadelphia acquired Pence from Houston on July 29 last year for the same reason San Francisco wanted him. The Phillies were desperate for a right-handed power hitter to bat fifth behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Pence fit the description perfectly. He batted .324 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs in only 54 games for Philadelphia.
While the Phillies ran away with the NL East last season, the Giants (56-47) lead the rival Los Angeles Dodgers (56-49) by two fewer losses.
''It's a little tigher race, which is going to be more fun,'' Pence said in the San Francisco clubhouse, arriving just after the Giants' victory snapped a five-game losing streak. ''When you get tested through the fire, you come out stronger. I think that's going to make for an exciting season.''
Last year, the Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games and captured their fifth straight NL East title, but lost to St. Louis in the NL division series.
Now they rebuild and Pence gets another chance at the postseason.
''You can't really explain sometimes the randomness of baseball, but hopefully that's something that stays true,'' Pence said, turning his attention to his new Giants team. ''The team's in the race right now. And what more can you ask for than to play playoff baseball?''
Pence will help replace injured All-Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval in the lineup and presumably bat fifth behind Cabrera and Posey. He'll likely shift to sixth when Sandoval, who was placed on the disabled list last weekend with a left hamstring strain, comes back.
''He gives us another bat in the heart of the order and something we need. It's always great to have a change and bring somebody like Hunter Pence's caliber in,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ''I got a chance to spend some time around him at the All-Star game last year. Great guy. Fun to watch. Fans are going to love him. He's around all the time.
''He loves the game and it shows.''
Pence still came at a price.
Schierholtz is hitting .257 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 77 games. The left-handed hitting right fielder likely will get more playing time in Philadelphia the rest of this season. He hit .270 with 23 homers and 119 RBIs in 503 games over parts of six seasons in San Francisco. Schierholtz was 2 for 12 in the 2010 postseason when the Giants upset the Phillies in the NLCS and beat Texas in the World Series.
Joseph was San Francisco's No. 2-ranked prospect by Baseball America. He's hitting .260 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 80 games for Double-A Richmond. Rosin was 2-1 with 10 saves and a 4.31 ERA in 34 games (five starts) for Single-A San Jose.
Pence is making $10.4 million this season and stands to get a raise in arbitration next year. He was an instant hit with Phillies fan upon arriving in Philadelphia last year, and the team still plans to give out his bobblehead on Aug. 21.
The 29-year-old has a strange way of doing things, and he looks awkward because he has long arms, long legs and runs oddly. But he had plenty of success no matter how weird he looked doing it.
''He is the most unique player that I've ever been around and kind of different,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said before a game against the Nationals. ''And I mean that in a good way. I do not mean that in a bad way at all. This guy is so is aggressive. He doesn't cut down nothing on his swing. He's just railing away. But the biggest part about him, though, is he can hit.''
Pence has a career .290 average with 131 homers and 471 RBIs in six seasons with the Astros and Phillies. Though he struggled defensively in Philadelphia, his 61 outfield assists since 2008 are second in the majors.
''It was important for us to have a right-handed hitter,'' Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. ''We've been on him for two years and we know what he could do here.''
Pence led the Phillies in hits (108), homers, RBIs, runs scored (59), total bases (178) and walks (37).
''I am surprised,'' Pence said. ''You understand the circumstance.''
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP