SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The cast on Hunter Pence’s fractured left forearm goes past the elbow, keeping his arm from bending as he heals. But Pence was worried about a different part of his body when he met reporters Friday morning at Scottsdale Stadium.
“The saddest part is I can’t really comb my hair anymore,” Pence said, his long curly hair hanging in all different directions. “I apologize for what you have to look at.”
If you wondered how Pence will handle an injury that will take him out of the Giants lineup for the first time, there’s your answer. He was upbeat and optimistic a morning after taking a Corey Black fastball off the left arm.
“You control what you can control — these things happen,” he said. “It really couldn’t have happened at a better time. I have a lot of time to get healthy and get back for the regular season games. I’m grateful that it was timed this early.”
The initial diagnosis was that Pence will miss six to eight weeks, and he said he received no further information from trainers on Friday. He has broken his left wrist and a pinkie in the past and pointed out that he tends to heal pretty fast. “Usually quicker than I’m supposed to,” he added.
Pence said he’s focused on things he can do to speed up the healing process, and he came to the park at 9:30 in the morning eager to start the rehab process. He asked trainers if there was anything he could do to get a head start and they told him to take it easy on Day 1. Pence, as eternally optimistic as any athlete you’ll meet, was even able to turn that directive into a positive.
“Sometimes doing nothing is doing something,” he said. “I’m healing. That is something to do.”
The injury means Pence will miss Opening Day after playing 383 consecutive games for the Giants, the longest streak in the big leagues. That wasn’t a concern Friday.
“The focus is on the team,” he said. “The focus is on everything we can to get to the playoffs and chase the dream of winning a World Series. There’s a huge process involved with that. That’s the main focus, is trying to get the most out of each and every one of us.”
Pence isn't just a middle-of-the-order threat, he's the emotional leader of the Giants, and he intends on being around to do all he can off the field as the season kicks off. He’s fully confident that Gregor Blanco will fill the void, and added that Juan Perez and Justin Maxwell and others can help out. Pence found multiple silver linings in the situation. The date of the injury means most of the rehab will take place during spring training, and because it was his non-throwing arm, Pence needs only to worry about his ability to swing a bat. He said he’s not worried about getting his timing back — he swings as hard as he can every time, anyway, and can track pitches in the cage and during BP — but he has to be patient with his wrist and wait for it to fully rotate again.
Pence already has found a quality way to pass some free time. He reached out to Black, the 23-year-old Cubs prospect who let a fastball get away from him in the sixth inning Thursday. Black had tweeted that he was “lost for words” and hoped Pence healed fast. When Pence saw the tweet Friday morning, he responded: “It happens my friend. Thanks for the concern, it’s part of the game we love. No slowing down!”
“I think some of the fans were getting on him, but I have no hard feelings towards him or the situation,” he later told reporters. “I think that’s the respect among competitors. We’re here to compete at a game and there are dangers. Let’s say I hit a ball and it hits the pitcher — I’m not happy that I hit the pitcher. Them too, they’re trying to execute a plan and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. It’s just a respect among competitors.
“There are other times when I’ve been involved in games and you are hit on purpose. Those you’re a little more upset about (but) this is nothing. It’s part of the game.”