Pence 'elated' to make Cactus League debut

Right fielder homers in first spring game, tested with outfield plays

Pence 'elated' to make Cactus League debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The thrill ride otherwise known as Hunter Pence's baseball career resumed Friday at Scottsdale Stadium. He couldn't quite operate at full speed, but he generated excitement nonetheless.

Appearing in his first exhibition game after recovering from right Achilles tendinitis, Pence lined a titanic fourth-inning home run in the Giants' 5-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners. The Giants welcomed the powerful display from Pence, whose injury-induced absence during most of the 2015 season proved too much for the ballclub to overcome.

It also stifled Pence's considerable spirit. Which explained why merely playing four innings in a meaningless game left him aglow.

"I'm elated," he said.

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Pence had anticipated this opportunity for days. So he was mortified when he arrived at Scottsdale Stadium, scanned San Francisco's lineup sheet and didn't see his name. He immediately confronted manager Bruce Bochy, who informed him that head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner wanted him to pass one more physical test: breaking from the batter's box after putting a pitch in play. Pence met that requirement during batting practice, prompting Bochy to use his regular right fielder after all.

"He was so excited today," Bochy said. "There was no holding him back."

That actually caused some concern. Pence had to race into the right-field corner to snare Efren Navarro's fourth-inning line drive and hustled into the gap to cut off at least three Mariners hits.

"He got tested," Bochy said. "I didn't want him to get tested that much, to be honest. It's always different when you go game speed, so he's going to have to learn to pace himself a little bit. And it's going to be up to us to take care of him."

"My stopping and starting is a little slower than I want it to be," Pence admitted. "But we have a lot of time to get that right."

Pence flashed his top form in the fourth after Buster Posey's two-out double by clobbering Joel Peralta's 3-1 delivery over the left-field lawn seating area.

That was the version of Pence the Giants missed last year, when he endured three stints on the disabled list. They went 34-17 in games he started. Obviously, he wasn't available enough as San Francisco finished 84-78 and missed the postseason.

This year will be different, Pence vowed. That is, it'll be more like his first seven full Major League seasons (2008-14), when he never played fewer than 154 games.

"I have all the faith that I'm going to be fine," he said. "I did as much preparing as I can."

• Bochy said projected everyday center fielder Denard Span threw to bases Friday, an indication that the free-agent acquisition is closer to playing defensively. Span has made five appearances as a designated hitter, batting .154 (2-for-13).

• Closer Santiago Casilla, bothered by the flu for much of the spring, is expected to appear in one of Saturday's split-squad games. Right-hander Matt Cain (cyst removal from throwing arm) is scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound, setting him up to face live hitters two or three days afterward if he stays physically sound. Right-hander Sergio Romo, who's steadily rounding into pitching shape, is due to face hitters in batting practice and might repeat this exercise before Bochy uses him in a game.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.