Former Giants outfielder Hunter Pence earns big-league spot with Rangers

Ex-Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is set to start the season with his hometown Rangers after going to spring training on a minor-league contract.

Manager Chris Woodward told Pence on Thursday that he will be on the 25-man roster as the team’s fourth outfielder when the Rangers open the regular season at home next Thursday against the Cubs.

Pence, a three-time All-Star who turns 36 on April 13, is a .280 career hitter in 12 big-league seasons.

Pence is hitting .333 with three homers and seven RBIs in 48 spring training at-bats.

“This is a really big deal, and it impacted me in a big way,” Pence said. “To be honest, the way I ended last year and how I played wasn’t good enough. I needed to get better and I put my mind to it. I’m extremely appreciative of this opportunity, and it’s very special.”

Snell deal: AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and the Rays agreed to a $50 million, five-year contract that covers three seasons of arbitration eligibility plus one year after he could have become a free agent. The team announced the deal less than two weeks after renewing the left-hander’s contract at a salary of $573,700 for the coming season. Snell will receive a $3 million signing bonus and a raise to $1 million for this season.

Pedroia out: Dustin Pedroia will miss Opening Day for the Red Sox for a second straight season, though he says he’s ready to go. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this winter for the second time in two offseasons. He says the Red Sox are “scared” to push him too quickly and that he and the team “want to make sure I follow the right steps.” Manager Alex Cora said there is no target date for activating the 2008 AL MVP.

Games: Bryce Harper his first two home runs for the Phillies, driving one completely out of the ballpark in a 13-6 win over the Blue Jays. … Jung Ho Kang hit a game-ending grand slam to lift the Pirates past the Orioles 7-5. Jonah Davis, a 15th-round pick from Cal in last year’s draft, hit two home runs for Pittsburgh in his first career spring training game. … The Tigers defeated the Astros 5-3 behind two homers by Jeimer Candelario. … St. Mary’s alum Corbin Burnes learned he had secured a spot in the Brewers’ rotation along with Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta, then struck out nine Dodgers over five innings, allowing three earned runs in an 11-5 decision. … Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia returned to the mound for the first time since undergoing a heart procedure in December, allowing one run and two hits over two innings in a minor-league exhibition game. He said he “felt great” after his 26-pitch outing.

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