"Let's go eat" were Hunter Pence's three most memorable words in 2011.

By the time the Phillies' season ended, however, he was still hungry even after getting his first taste of playoff baseball.

"We definitely didn't reach our ultimate goal last year," Pence said Monday night at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Dinner in Cherry Hill. "We accomplished some great things. We had a great regular season, won another division title, so to be a part of that was special.

"Being in the playoffs for the first time was special, but losing definitely leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and it drives you every day in the offseason. We know what this team is capable of and what the ultimate goal is. I work out every day with that on my mind and I want to do everything I can when that moment comes."

Pence was at the dinner to receive the Good Guy Award after coming to the Phillies in a trade from Houston in late July.

His next stop is Clearwater, Fla., and soon.

Pence said he is going to his new spring-training home Wednesday even though position players are not expected to report until late next month.

"Last year what happened for me was pretty wild personally," he said. "There was a lot of change. Now, I'm pretty acquainted with everyone and . . . the one thing I still have to get acquainted with is spring training and finding my way around that facility. We have a lot to look forward to this year and I'll be in Clearwater so early, so I'll have plenty of time to be ready."

The addition of Pence was the right elixir for the Phillies' offense last summer. In need of a righthanded bat in the middle of the order, the two-time all-star came aboard and hit .324 with a .394 on-base percentage in 54 regular-season games. He also contributed 11 home runs and drove in 34 runs to finish with a career-high 97 RBIs.

Pence's first postseason did not go so well. He batted .211 overall and .143 after Game 1 when the offense went south.

"It's a lot different," he said. "The different times and different schedules . . . so it's not the same rhythm of the regular season. There is a lot more emotion in the air and it's a lot more exciting, but it's the same game. I can't wait to get back there, but it's a long process and nothing is guaranteed. You have to do it one day at a time and if you get another opportunity and you're lucky, you try to catch that lightning in a bottle."

The long process will start April 5 on opening day in Pittsburgh. It will likely start without first baseman Ryan Howard.

"If he's back by some time in May, I'll be happy," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He continues to do some strengthening stuff. He seems to be moving better every day, so that's good."

Amaro said a healthy Chase Utley - and by all accounts the second baseman is healthy - and a full season of Pence should help the Phillies be more consistent offensively in 2012.

On the other hand, Utley, Pence and the rest of the lineup will also be under some pressure to perform without Howard's big bat in the middle of the lineup during the first month of the season.

"You just go out there and you play the game to win," Pence said. "We have confidence, but obviously when there is a guy like Ryan Howard not in the lineup you're not as good of a team. But we still have plenty of weapons with the club we have. We know we're going to have him whenever the run is needed coming down the stretch."

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.