San Francisco Bay Area baseball fans are hoping to see Hunter Pence back patrolling right field once again when the visiting Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics continue their three-game series on Tuesday night.
One day after contributing a home run to an 11-10 win over Houston, Pence never left the bench in his Bay Area reunion during Monday's 6-1 loss to the A's.
Pence was used as a pinch hitter and designated hitter when he went 0-for-5 with an RBI when the Rangers hosted the A's for three games earlier this month.
He's played right field twice since returning to his home state as a free agent over the winter, signing with the Rangers after having spent the last six and a half seasons as the everyday right fielder for the San Francisco Giants, helping the A's cross-Bay rivals to win two championships.
Despite the earlier 0-for-5, Pence brought a .333 career batting average with him to the Oakland Coliseum for his first Bay Area appearance since a glorified going-away party Giants fans had for him at the end of last season.
With Pence's average diminishing (he hit .226 last season) and his five-year, $90 million deal expiring, it was a foregone conclusion that the 36-year-old would be leaving the Giants after last season.
Equally inevitable was that he'd return to the Bay Area wearing some other team's colors.
Until his signing with the Rangers in February, it just wasn't clear where he'd play first -- San Francisco or Oakland.
So it's the A's who are hosting the welcome-back festivities.
"Coming to San Francisco feels like a second home to me," Pence gushed to reporters before the game, noting that he slept in the Bay Area home he still owns on Sunday night.
If A's fans get their chance to show their appreciation for the popular former All-Star in the series, they'll see a revamped swing in the wake of diminishing returns in recent years.
"With the way it was, I had to make a change," Pence said, acknowledging that he'd hired a personal hitting coach in the offseason. "(I) had to get better and I had to trust the process."
One nemesis Pence won't have to worry about in the series is left-hander Ryan Buchter, against whom he's gone 0-for-6 with a strikeout in his career.
The A's demoted their reliever to Triple-A before Monday's game, with manager Bob Melvin noting Buchter's absence from the big-league club might not be for long.
"There are certain guys that either don't belong here or get sent down because of performance," Melvin explained to reporters. "This is a guy we're really going to need. When he's on, he's not just a left-handed bullpen guy, he's a good one. We just need to get him straightened out a little bit."
Pence has never faced Oakland's Tuesday starter, Frankie Montas (3-1, 2.70), who has a 0-0 record and 2.89 ERA in four career appearances, including one start, against the Rangers.
Right-hander Lance Lynn (2-1, 4.44), like Pence a longtime National Leaguer, will face the A's for the first time in his career when he makes his Oakland Coliseum debut.
Lynn has pitched in 31 major league ballparks in his career and recorded wins in 23 of them.
--Field Level Media