Hot Pence springs forward, Giants’ hopes follow him

Quick — pack Hunter Pence in bubble wrap and ship him to AT&T Park before he runs head-first into a fence or something.

The old Pence appears to be back — the healthy one, the good one — and for the Giants, that’s the best news to come out of Arizona this month. On Tuesday, Mr. Excitement lifted his batting average to .478 with a pair of monstrous home runs — one to the opposite field, the other a pull shot to left — his team-high fourth and fifth of the spring.  He also made two hustle plays in the field, and who cares if the ball eluded him both times?

Yeah, that’s the Pence that the Giants and their fans have come to know and appreciate over the years.

“He wanted to stay out there for that last at-bat and I’m sure he’s glad he did with the way he hit that last one,” skipper Bruce Bochy said.

Pence proposed to his girlfriend at Disney World in the offseason, and after his roller coaster ride of a year ago, he couldn’t have picked a more appropriate place. He sat out all of April, half of May, almost all of June, a small part of July, all of August and all of September. He finished with 223 plate appearances, the fewest of his career by far. Pence plays with a crazed passion that has an almost magical effect on the team, so it was no coincidence that it was out of sorts from the start.

While the Giants wait for their rotation to come around — and that may take a while —  their offense has the potential to keep them in the chase. Put Pence in the middle of the line-up for 140-plus games, and it’s a whole lot easier to like to their chances.

KAP DOESN’T FIT: It’s time for 49ers general manager Trent Baalke to lower his price on Colin Kaepernick lest the petulant quarterback becomes even more of pubic relations nightmare. For the sake of team karma alone, no way can he be kept around.

While Baalke and company sits on their wallets in the free agent market, Chip Kelly waits for the start of off-season workouts on April 4 to see what he has on the field. That’s when the coach will get his first close look at Kaepernick if the QB is still on the roster. A number of teammates tuned out Kaepernick last season, and that was before he expressed a preference to play in Cleveland — Cleveland?! Bet that will go over big in the locker room.

While the Niners drag their feet, what fans they have left are advised to hold tight on ticket purchases. It may be early, but Kelly’s debut season has the look of the same old.

THINK BIG(GER): This week NFL owners approved a rule that moved the spot of the ball back 10 yards after touchbacks in a further attempt to reduce the number of kickoff returns, but they missed the point once again.

What needs to address are the field dimensions, which remain hopelessly outdated after all these decades. While athletes have become bigger, stronger and faster over time, the space around them remains the same. Is it any wonder that there’s more violent contact nowadays?

Widen and lengthen the field by a few yards, and there would be more room to roam. A greater premium on athleticism and less on physical strength would make for fewer head-on collisions. Gradually, the average body size would shrink.

Balls is looking at you, too, National Hockey League.

DOWN ON THEIR LUCK:  The Los Angeles Clippers crawled into Oracle Arena on Wednesday night, and you didn’t hear coach-general manager Doc Rivers talk about how lucky the Warriors were to be within reach of the NBA record for most victories in the regular season.

The Clippers have problems and they are many. Start with the slew of Rivers-inspired personnel moves that haven’t turned out well. Then there’s the iffy status of Blake Griffin, who has a partially torn quadriceps and still hasn’t served the four-game suspension for his abuse of an equipment manager. Sluggo hasn’t played since Christmas Day.

“We’ve fought the whole year, and I don’t think it’s energy, I don’t think it’s fatigue,” J.J. Redick said after the Clippers lost to the New cast weekend. “It’s just the spirit’s not right.”

THIS JUST IN: According to the Balls’ Department of Sometimes Useful Analytics, the Warriors have a 42.3 percent chance to beat the record of 72 victories, which in a remarkable coincidence also is DeAndre Jordan’s career free throw rate.

THE LIST: Much-needed things the Niners can buy with their unspent free agent money:

Architect’s study for Kezar Stadium renovation project.

Lovely parting gifts for Baalke next season.

FarmersOnly hoodie for Kelly to wear at news conferences.

Scotts Turf Builder for Levi’s Stadium. (Hurry — 30 percent off at Lowe’s!)

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

Niners vs. Rams: It’s like fighting your little brother

These two teams know each other well. And they look alike, too

Why is Steph Curry in a shooting slump? It’s a Warriors mystery

For the season, he’s shooting 37.6% from deep. That would be a career-low

I voted for Barry Bonds to get into the Hall of Fame. Here’s why it didn’t matter

Giants star falls short in his 10th and final season of standard eligibility