Pence not worried about soph slump

KISSIMMEE, FL And why would he be? The second-year Houston outfielder made the transition from the minors to a spot in the Astros starting lineup seamlessly last season and was a a front-runner for National League rookie of the year before being sidelined with a wrist injury.

Now the 24-year-old is looking forward to what he can accomplish with a year of experience.

"My whole theory on that is I come prepared every day and ... that's all I can do," Pence said of a possible letdown this season. "I don't look at the numbers, I look at wins and losses."

Pence set Astros' rookie records for extra-base hits (56) and doubles (30) and finished with a .322 batting average. He's batting .367 this spring with three home runs and 13 RBIs.

Manager Cecil Cooper doesn't worry about how Pence will fare this year either. He said Pence is one of the hardest working players on the team and is the first one at the park almost every day.

"I think this young man is just a baseball player and he'll do whatever it takes to get it done," Cooper said. "He continues to make adjustments just as he made them all through the minor leagues. Nothing he does amazes me."

Pence has moved from center field to right field this season to make room for Michael Bourn. Pence said he prefers his new position.

"I would say it's a little easier for me," he said. "I feel really comfortable over there now. We've got a really fast guy in Mike so I've got a little leeway."

He was a bit disappointed in his fielding last season and said he was too tentative in that area.

"I was afraid to make a mistake, and it's one of those rookie things," he said. "I didn't want to be too aggressive and I've always been an aggressive ballplayer. I think that's one thing I've gotten over. I've learned to just be myself and just be athletic and make the play."

Pence believes he can be an "exceptional" right fielder and is working to get better at center field. He could fill in at the position when Bourn needs a day off.

Cooper believes his attitude and work ethic have already made Pence a leader on the team despite his age. He likes the youthful exuberance Pence brings to the team.

"He added that to our team last year," Cooper said. "We were kind of dragging, going no place and all of the sudden there's excitement. I expect him to continue to do that."

Pence believes his smooth move to the majors was due in part to the help and advice he got from Houston's veterans. They told him success is in the details.

"Every little thing out there counts," he said. "Everything is under a microscope. Paying attention to the small details is how you help your team win and how you make sure you stay around."

And he doesn't think about the missed shot at rookie of the year or what could have been last season had he not injured his wrist sliding.

"I don't think about that. I think of it as I've got to figure out a way to slide and not land on my wrist," he deadpanned.

- Send us your sports story tips
- Click here for more sports stories

Copyright © 2023 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.