SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Major League Baseball's iron man will miss Opening Day.
Giants right-fielder Hunter Pence has a non-displaced fracture in his left forearm after getting hit by a pitch Thursday. Pence is expected to miss six to eight weeks, ending his MLB-leading streak of 383 consecutive games. Pence has not missed a game since being traded to the Giants on July 31, 2012.
The fracture of the ulna bone occurred when Pence was hit by a Corey Black pitch in the sixth inning of Thursday's home game against the Chicago Cubs. Black was struggling with his command and had already walked two in the inning and received a visit from his pitching coach when he threw a pitch that ran in on Pence's hands. Teammates said they knew Pence was seriously hurt because he went down to his knees, holding his hands together for a few seconds before getting up. Pence always sprints down to first after getting hit by pitches, but he walked slowly to the bag before trainer Anthony Reyes took him down the dugout steps and into the clubhouse.
Manager Bruce Bochy went back into the trainer’s room to see Pence and said the right fielder was trying to be positive.
“You know Hunter,” Bochy said immediately after the game, while the Giants were still waiting for X-rays to confirm the fracture. “He’s always upbeat and optimistic. He said he was trying to move out of the way and it ran in and caught him there. He said, ‘Hey, it happened.’ If it’s broken, the silver lining is that it’s early in spring and gives him a month for the healing process.”
The season opener is April 6 in Phoenix against the Diamondbacks. Pence was the Giant most likely to be in the lineup that day. He was one of four Major Leaguers to play all 162 games last season, starting 161 of them. He is the only MLB player to play in every game the past two seasons. Pence played all but 23 defensive innings during the 2014 season, hitting .277 with 20 homers, 106 runs (ranking him fourth in the Majors) and 74 RBI. With 4.7 wins above replacement, he ranked eighth among National League outfielders.
The Giants can temporarily fill the void by putting Gregor Blanco in right field. Blanco had been scheduled to be the primary backup to center fielder Angel Pagan and left fielder Nori Aoki. The injury will likely force the Giants to keep an additional outfielder, as they had tinkered with the idea of carrying Travis Ishikawa (primarily a first baseman) as their fifth outfielder behind Pence, Pagan, Aoki and Blanco. Juan Perez and Gary Brown would be familiar options, and the coaching staff is intrigued by non-roster invitee Justin Maxwell. The power hitter had a strong game Thursday, making a diving catch of a liner to right and stealing second after drawing a walk.
While the Giants tried to stay optimistic on Thursday, this is certainly a huge blow to a lineup that already is searching for power after the departures of Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse. Pence led the club in hits, runs and triples last season, and ranked second in homers, doubles and RBI. He also stole 13 bases during his marathon season.
Bochy has mentioned a couple of times this spring that he wants to rest Pence more often this season. This isn’t what he had in mind.
"You hate to see it," Bochy said. "Unfortunately, these things happen."