Bay Area Baseball

Follow the latest news and notes on the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics

September 28, 2013
Eventful day for Hunter Pence ends with clubhouse negotiation

SAN FRANCISCO -- Quite an eventful Friday for Hunter Pence. First he found out he had won the Willie Mac Award as the Giants' most inspirational player, with his mother and brother both flying in to congratulate him. Then he homered in the Giants' 7-3 win over the Padres, snapping an 0-for-27 streak. Then, after the game, he had an extended conversation in the clubhouse with team President and CEO Larry Baer, which led some media members gathered nearby to jokingly wonder if the two were negotiating Pence's next contract.

Or it seemed to be joking, anyway. Pence, the impending free agent, disappeared for a while before returning to talk with the media, and was asked if he and Baer had hammered out a new deal.

"I don't know," Pence said. "They're about to get back to me. ... We're either really close or really far away."

He said he was being serious. Asked then if he thinks a deal could be reached before the Giants go their separate ways for the offseason, Pence said: "Yeah. I don't know. I'll know shortly.

"We'll just say that we're talking, I guess."

So that remains up in the air -- for now. General manager Brian Sabean in his end-of-the-season news conference before the game made it clear the Giants' top priority going into next season is to re-sign their own free agents, and that negotiations were underway with Pence. He did not indicate the two sides were close to a deal.

* As for the Willie Mac Award, which Pence received in an on-field ceremony before the game, the right fielder echoed what he said in his speech. "I would say words are tough to express how honored, how humbled and how grateful I am," Pence said. "To be voted in by your teammates is the ultimate honor as a player. I think the smile on my face showed you what was going on inside."

Pence said the Giants surprised him by alerting his family to the fact he'd be getting the award -- something he didn't find out himself until after batting practice Friday. He said the team got his mom's phone number by telling him they had "some bracelet thing" they wanted to give her.

"So I was like, they got me," Pence said.

Pence, whose off-the-cuff inspirational speeches during the playoffs last season now hold their own place in Giants lore, said he was "so nervous" having to make a speech in front of the announced 41,103 fans at AT&T Park, along with his teammates and with the man for whom the award is named -- Hall of Famer Willie McCovey -- sitting beside him.

Manager Bruce Bochy ruled it a "nice speech. ... He was very honored." Bochy also said the award is well-deserved. Pence has started all 160 games in right field for the Giants this season and recorded his 26th home run and 94th RBI on Friday night, both team highs. Bochy was asked if he ever really considered giving Pence a day off this season and said, "A couple times. But it seemed like once we got past the All-Star Break, the longer the streak goes, the tougher it is to break -- for him and for me."

After the ceremony, the Giants met Pence with a sunflower seed shower in the dugout, also harkening back to the raucous pre-game huddles from last year's postseason.

"I definitely was on cloud nine going into the outfield," Pence said. "So the fans and my teammates really inspired me there."

* Before all the stuff with Pence, it seemed like Friday belonged to Ryan Vogelsong, who may have been making his final start for the Giants. The Giants hold a $6.5 million club option on Vogelsong for 2014, and Sabean said Friday it's still up in the air whether they will exercise that or let Vogelsong become a free agent.

Vogelsong, who has expressed his desire to remain with the Giants, said he has not been told one way or the other what will happen. "I'm going to go home and wait and see what happens," he said. "I told you guys how I feel and what I would like to see happen. But as I know in this game, it doesn't always go how you want it to."

The right-hander did, though, finish a frustrating season on a positive note, allowing two runs in six innings against the Padres and earning the win Friday. He walked four hitters, including two in the sixth, with the second prompting a visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti, who Vogelsong said told him the next batter -- Alexi Amarista -- would likely be his last.

"But I don't hear that," Vogelsong said. "I wanted it to be my last hitter. I didn't want to have to make them make a decision whether they were going to let me face another guy."

Vogelsong retired Amarista on a fly ball and left having thrown 91 pitches. His fastball still seemed to be hovering in the high-80s, as it has for most of the year, but Vogelsong said he was encouraged by the way he pitched going into the offseason.

"I've been working really hard all year on stuff and I've told you guys before I've had a hard time getting comfortable with a delivery and been fighting it all year," he said. "Tonight was better most of the time.

"I've got a lot of stuff to work on this offseason. I'm a lot closer than I probably think I am, but the thing that's comforting is the stuff was better tonight. That's a positive to take away from it and get better this offseason."

Vogelsong finishes the season 4-6 with a 5.73 ERA, having missed 69 games during the middle with a fractured pinkie finger. Even before the injury he struggled, leading some to wonder if Vogelsong was feeling the fatigue of a deep postseason run and pitching in the World Baseball Classic before this season.

While Sabean remained noncommittal Friday on Vogelsong's future, he did say that, given the right-hander's past, it's a good bet Vogelsong will put in the work to ensure next season will not be a repeat of this one.

"He's got some mileage, but this guy's a warrior, he's forever found a way to reinvent himself," Sabean said. "And if anybody should get a pass on what didn't go right this year for him, it's certainly him."

Said Vogelsong: "That means a lot coming from him. He's obviously been around this game for a long time and he's seen a lot of players. To have someone put that kind of warrior tag on your name is awesome. That's kind of what we strive for in this game."

* Bochy shared a couple news items after the game. For one thing, Matt Cain will not start the season finale on Sunday. It'll be Guillermo Moscoso instead, with the Giants deciding there was no need to send their staff ace out for one more meaningless game.

"He's fine," Bochy said, "we just decided that's enough for him. As much as he's pitched the last few years here, time to give him a little break."

That also makes Sunday a prime opportunity for Bochy to get Barry Zito his curtain call, after Bochy said Thursday night he intends to have Zito pitch again at some point during the final weekend.

Also, Bochy said, reliever Jeremy Affeldt underwent sports hernia surgery earlier this week and is looking at six to eight weeks of recovery time. Bochy said he wasn't sure if the sports hernia and the groin issue that sidelined Affeldt this season are related.

* In game action, rookie Juan Perez continued his strong finish to the season with three hits, including his first major-league home run in the third inning. Perez, who also went 6-for-12 in three games during the Giants' trip to New York, said he did get the ball back, trading an autographed bat for it.

"It feels amazing," Perez said. "Pretty good."

Along with Pence, Pablo Sandoval also homered Friday. It was only the second time the Giants have homered three times in a home game this season. The other was May 12 against the Braves.

* A couple oddities in the late innings. Javier Lopez came in to start the ninth inning and threw one pitch, which pinch hitter Logan Forsythe hit for a home run to center field. It was the first homer Lopez has allowed all season -- and the second the left-hander has given up in three and a half season as a Giant.

An inning earlier, Gregor Blanco lined a triple into right-center field and was waved home by third-base coach Tim Flannery for an inside-the-park attempt when the relay in got past cutoff man Jedd Gyorko. Amarista, though, backing up the play, gloved the ball and threw out Blanco at home.

At this point, why not?

* It's Padres left-hander Eric Stults (10-13, 3.94) against Yusmeiro Petit (4-0, 2.84) in a day game tomorrow. First pitch at 1:05 p.m.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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