Hunter Pence’s injury gives San Francisco Giants motivation

The San Francisco Giants learned Thursday that Hunter Pence will begin the season on the disabled list, due to a fractured left forearm, officially listed as a nondisplaced ulnar fracture. Expected to miss six to eight weeks, Pence will be able to rejoin the Giants ten games into the season, at earliest. The Chicago Cubs pitcher who delivered the deadly missile was minor-league righty, Corey Black.

Up until the sixth inning of Thursday’s game, a short list of Giants issues might have included the pitching corps allowing 24 runs in two-plus games, with the offense scoring only four runs. It may have mentioned Brandon Crawford’s sore shoulder or Madison Bumgarner’s eye-opening cycle surrender in his first inning of work. It may even have alluded to a sore neck sidelining Angel Pagan for two games, while tacking on the fact that Hunter Strickland has surrendered two big flies so far this spring. In his first two appearances.

And now One Hunter Percent, heretofore most likely referred to as a man of steel, iron man, Preacher Pence, indomitable spirit-take your choice-is down? Is nothing sacred?

Oct 25, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence makes a catch on a ball hit by Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain (not pictured) in the 9th inning during game four of the 2014 World Series at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Actually, no, nothing is sacred.

Without diminishing Pence’s importance to the team, in terms of historical perspective, his injury barely registers on the radar, when compared to that of Buster Posey in 2011.
2011 taught us that, with the heart and soul of the GIants Buster Posey going down to injury, one which would eventually bring about a change in the way baseball does business at home plate. Pence’s injury, as nasty as it is, remains as much a part of baseball as records of longevity (Pence has played in 383 consecutive games, longest current streak in the majors).

Being the ultimate optimist, Pence himself would look at it from this perspective:

The timing is ideal, because it is so early.

There are ample replacements in camp who will pick up ABs and get the chance to shine: Juan Perez, Gregor Blanco, Justin Maxwell, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson, not to mention Travis Ishikawa.

Mac Williamson up to bat against Madison Bumgarner at the Futures game on March 8, 2014.

Pence’s aura is such that I look to the Giants to collectively respond by compensating for their injured right fielder’s absence. A fast start to the season would not surprise me one bit.

Finally, there’s the old standby that Pence will be that much fresher in September, though with the way he hustles, that may be hard to measure with available technology.

Spring training is a must; it’s part of the process. But to make too much out of what actually goes on, is pointless. Yes, starting out by hammering home 24 runs in two-plus games, and only allowing four runs the first two games-plus six innings-would have been better than the actuality of it all, but it’s all the same-only different.

Last spring, when projected Giants starting pitchers went 20+ innings without allowing a run out the gate, no one suggested that they were going to maintain that pace for the season. Accordingly, MadBum’s classic start, Jake Peavy’s (gasp) four ground ball singles, and Ryan Vogelsong’s grand slam allowed, warrant nothing more than passing interest, because no one cares what happens in spring training.

Well, Oakland A’s fans care. Oh, do they care. But if winning games in spring training is what you do, and you do it well, then here’s to you. I can only assure you that Madison Bumgarner does not give a flying bull about his opening appearance.

The irony of his closing in October, when everything thing was on the line and all eyes were on him, being contrasted to an innocuous moment in the desert, when no one cares, and he lit the joint up, is priceless. Timing is everything.

Photo by DDC/Agencies/InternetPhotos/thecubanhistory.com

The Giants are accustomed to adversity and they have a history of responding well to it. When Pence was struck down in the top of the sixth, the Giants scored immediately in the bottom of the sixth, when non-roster invitee Mitch Delfino singled in Brandon Hicks. Daniel Carbonell followed that up with some thunder of his own in the seventh, with a two-run bomb, reducing the Cubs’ lead to 6-3.

San Francisco completed the comeback with five more unanswered runs in the bottom of the eighth, as Christian Arroyo, on base for Carbonell’s earlier blast, tied the score with a single, and Gary Brown knocked in the lead run with another single.

Again, it’s spring training and it doesn’t matter but the Giants’ unwillingness to let Hunter Pence go down, especially as the result of a pitched ball, without retaliation, speaks volumes for what will happen when the Giants take the field at the start of the season.

Meanwhile the price of poker just went up for Mac Williamson, Justin Maxwell and the rest of the outfielders in camp as the joker makes his first appearance.

This could be a case of the worst occurring first, and just getting it out of the way quickly. That’s the line I’m straddling, anyway, and since it’s on the grass, I’m think I’m on solid ground. For the moment at least.