SAN FRANCISCO -- Hunter Pence reported instant success as he tried his hand at "MLB 13: The Show" for Sony's PlayStation 3. "I went deep in my first at-bat," said Pence, adding that he was hitting .500 after installing himself in the leadoff spot. Pence can't hit .500 for the Giants. But the spirited right fielder knows that he can exceed the .219 batting average he compiled in 59 regular-season games last year after San Francisco acquired him from Philadelphia. So he has devoted this offseason to improving his speed and relaxing more in the batter's box, which he believes will help him regain his All-Star form.
Pence insisted that he's a "lot faster" than he was last year. "I feel like a lot of it comes to speed and being able to beat out some of those infield hits," Pence said at AT&T Park, where he appeared Tuesday to promote "MLB 13: The Show." "Also being looser at the plate. Those are two of the things I've been working on. Training hand-eye [coordination] in other ways than just hitting. You can hit too much to where you can tire yourself out." Pence was indefatigable as the Giants surged to the World Series title. Though he hit just .210 (13-for-62) with one home run and four RBIs in 16 postseason games, his series of pregame pep talks, which he launched during the Division Series at Cincinnati before San Francisco's first of six elimination-game victories, is credited with helping the club muster its resilience. "It was all in the way the team played," Pence said, downplaying his rhetorical skills. "It had nothing to do with my speeches. We had a great performance all the way around." Pence elevated his game enough to amass 45 regular-season RBIs for the Giants. Despite his career-worst .253 average overall, he hit 24 homers and drove in 104 runs. Pence's production, along with his eligibility for salary arbitration, accounted for the pay raise he received from $10.4 million to $13.8 million last Friday. "It's hard to pinpoint just one thing," Pence said of his offensive struggles. "The main thing is getting fresh. A lot of it is in your mind, feeling good with your swing. Sometimes when you have a bad feel, it's tough to get out of it in the middle of a season. Fortunately I was somehow able to find a way to produce while not having probably my best swing." Pence's maximum-effort style of play remained constant throughout his fluctuations. Thus, it was no surprise to hear him say that the Giants and their fans can expect "to get every bit of effort I've got" this season. "I'm confident I can hit better than I did last year," continued Pence, who turns 30 on April 13. "Every year I'm working to improve in all aspects. But the main goal isn't to improve my average. The main goal is to find a way to win ballgames, however that is. If it has to be getting a guy over, if it has to be laying out for a fly ball in the outfield, my goal this offseason is to make myself the best I can to play for the San Francisco Giants." Pence, who's eligible for free agency after this season, was referring only to 2013. But he indicated that he would consider remaining with the Giants beyond this year if they raise the subject with him. "If they want to talk about that, I'd definitely be willing to listen," he said. "I'm not opposed to that at all. I want to be here."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.