Not that there was much doubt in the mind of anyone but Nyjer Morgan, but Ricky Nolasco made it pretty clear today that he didn’t intend to hit Morgan with a pitch earlier this week:
I don’t know what to tell Nyjer. I’m not trying to hit him. What’s happened last year is squashed. If I wanted to hit him, I’d hit him with the first pitch. And why am I going to hit somebody in my first start, trying to catch-up off an injury, on an 0-2 count to lead off the game? I don’t know what else to tell him for him to think differently. I don’t know. I can just tell you, “No, I did not try to hit him.”
I’m not sure how Nolasco actually said it, but I read “I don’t know what to tell Nyjer” in an exasperated tone, which is how a lot of people are increasingly feeling about Morgan on and off the field since around the middle of last season.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.