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Why Giants are not panicking over Hunter Pence’s start

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants continue to preach that Hunter Pence has been here before, and thus there is no reason to worry. Every major league player gets mired in slumps.

Of course, the concern would be Pence has not been 37 when the balls would not find grass.

The Giants’ cleanup hitter on Friday was still searching for his first hit a week into the season, 0-for-17, nine at-bats against righties and eight against lefties but no success against either.

Perhaps seeing his friends from the Rangers will wake up the bat. Or more likely if he succeeds, it would be because a lefty, Mike Minor, is starting for Texas.

Hitting coach Donnie Ecker said Pence’s start is “no big deal” to the outfielder/DH.

“We’re starting to really see the ball come off his bat,” Ecker said over Zoom on Friday. “It’s really nothing to us. It’s more about just getting him a little more timed up and getting him into some positions that he’s stayed in for the majority of his career.”

Pence is best against southpaws, whom he destroyed last year in a comeback All-Star season. The fact the Giants have given him so many looks against righties is surprising, but can be explained by their alternatives; without Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt, there were few options, and few Giants have been hitting righties.

Gabe Kapler pointed out Pence still was solid against righties last year — slashing .278/.345/.500 — and his batting No. 4 shows the Giants believe in him and want to get his bat going.

Brandon Crawford struggled in the first few games, too, but the Giants pointed at peripherals that signaled his luck would turn (which it has). The advanced statistics are not as kind to Pence; in the tiny sample size, his average exit velocity is down from 91.4 last year to 86.4 this year. He has not barreled up a pitch yet, and while his average is .000, his expected average is .169.

“There’s nobody that works harder than HP,” Ecker said. “He really sets the temperature for how we train off machines, how we face spin, how we face velo. There’s never a lever to pull on when it comes to his work ethic.”

Here’s the full lineup behind Logan Webb:

1. Austin Slater, RF
2. Wilmer Flores, 1B
3. Mike Yastrzemski, CF
4. Hunter Pence, LF
5. Evan Longoria, 3B
6. Donovan Solano, 2B
7. Darin Ruf, DH
8. Chadwick Tromp, C
9. Mauricio Dubon, SS


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