SAN FRANCISCO — Hunter Pence got one last chance to be a spectator when he watched former teammate and close friend Michael Morse pick up his World Series ring on Thursday night. From here on out, it’s all about baseball for Pence.
The right fielder will play five innings for the Sacramento River Cats on Friday, with the Giants hoping Pence gets three at-bats in his first rehab game and his first game of any kind since he fractured his left forearm during a spring training game March 5.
“I’m very excited to be able to start playing and working toward getting back up here to help,” Pence said. “I gave everything I had every day (of the last couple months). We don’t know what’s going to happen when we play. I think I’m ready, but we’ll see.”
Pence said his forearm is not yet 100 percent, but “the progress has been daily.”
“It was a process,” he said. “I’m feeling strong enough to compete and compete well.”
Manager Bruce Bochy said he’s not sure how many rehab games Pence will need, but it is expected to be on the lengthy side as far as rehab assignments go. Pence had just four at-bats this spring and the Giants need him to see plenty of live pitching.
Players usually begin rehab assignments at the low levels of the minors, but the Giants are sending Pence to Triple-A in part because they don’t want to take the risk of Pence getting hit again. Players at Triple-A have better command, and when Brandon Belt was sent to High-A San Jose last year to rehab a broken thumb, he got hit in one of his first games.
“I think it’s the safest way, to be honest,” Bochy said. “There’s better command there. He’ll see better pitching. It’ll be a bit of a challenge because it’s been a while since he’s played, but I think it’s the safest, best way to go right now.”
While those around Pence say he has been frustrated by the pace of this particular rehab process, Pence wouldn’t say if the last two months were harder than he expected them to be. The Giants originally ruled him out for six-to-eight weeks.
“I get asked 'how hard,'” he said. “A difficulty rating is extremely impossible for me to do. I just give my best every day.”
Coaches have noticed that Pence’s swing took leaps and bounds this week, and he said he felt a lot better the last couple days.
“I’m able to swing hard,” he said. “I feel like I’m able to swing hard. I feel good. I feel confident (the injury) is not going to be a factor in my performance.”
--- Tim Hudson became the fourth Giants pitcher since 1958 to allow at least 15 hits in a game, and the first since Clarence Mitchell in 1931 to allow 15 hits but not walk anyone. The killer was Dan Haren’s two-run double in the second inning.
“He jumped on the first pitch, a sinker in the middle of the plate,” Hudson said. “That hurt right there, giving up two runs to the pitcher with two outs. If the pitcher doesn’t get those two hits, I give up 13 hits and two runs, which is kind of a strange line.”
Bochy said he stuck with Hudson too long, but he was hoping to get through the seventh and only have to use one relief pitcher. The bullpen has been used quite a bit on this homestand. Instead, Hudson gave up a two-run homer.
“That’s my fault,” Bochy said. “I tried to get through that inning with Huddy. I knew he was teetering.”
--- The pitching lines (16 runs, 33 hits) the last two games will get the attention, but the Giants have scored just three runs the last two games. “That usually doesn’t work,” Bochy said.
There were a couple hitting positives. Belt has a double in five straight games, two short of Jeff Kent’s franchise record. Hudson’s single snapped a 49-at-bat hitless streak that was the longest in the National League.