Pena has power, can he lift the average?
Already comfortable in his new surroundings, Carlos Pena joked
with teammates Friday, downed a big bowl of Cheerios and then
looked forward to his first season – maybe his only one – with the
Pena says winning in Chicago, where the Cubs’ World Series title
drought could reach 103 years this season, would be an
”If you win in Chicago, it will be lights out,” he said.
The Cubs signed Pena to a one-year, $10 million deal in December
that his agent Scott Boras called a ”pillow contract” because of
the comfort it provides. It will allow Pena to put up a good season
and then perhaps reap a bigger deal as a free agent.
Pena is already working with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo
to simplify his approach and hike his batting average.
He’s the left-handed power bat Chicago needs in its lineup, but
it’s hardly a secret that everyone expects him to go above the
Mendoza Line this season. Hobbled in August by plantar fasciitis,
he ended up batting only .196 last season with the Tampa Bay Rays
when 28 of his 95 hits went for homers.
”I definitely want to improve all my numbers. The emphasis is
on the batting average because last year was so difficult for me in
that category,” Pena said.
”I understand that’s not me. It doesn’t represent me. It
wouldn’t be intelligent on my part to carry that piece of luggage
on my back, that batting average, to carry it around and let it be
the number that identifies me. It’s not even an issue.”
Pena is known for his slick fielding at first base and his
power, with 144 of his 230 major league homers coming for Tampa Bay
the last four seasons.
With Derrek Lee traded away during last season’s fifth-place
finish, the Cubs needed to address first base. Tyler Colvin, who
had a strong rookie season mostly in the outfield, will also work
at the position, an insurance against injury and also a way to give
Pena a day off when needed.
Pena’s transition has been helped by the presence of his former
Rays teammate Matt Garza, who could be the Cubs’ ace this season.
The two helped the one-time doormat Rays make the World Series
three years ago.
”I know I don’t have to worry about the left side of the
infield,” Garza said. ”I played with him for three seasons, so I
know his range and he knows mine. I know everything he can do and
everything he can’t do, which is very little. It’s a comfort
Pena, who won a Gold Glove in 2008, credits his fielding acumen
to an early desire to be a shortstop.
”It goes all the way back to when I was a kid and I wanted to
be a shortstop and obviously I couldn’t because I was
left-handed,” he said. ”So I had to take shortstop to first base.
I’ve always had an appreciation for the good defensive shortstops
of my country, like Tony Fernandez. I just think it was ingrained
in my head at a very early age that defense was important. And I’ve
carried that all the way.”
Notes: OF Kosuke Fukudome, in the fourth and final year of a
four-year, $48 million deal, said he’d prefer to stay in the major
leagues and with the Cubs. Fukudome has batted .259 in his three
seasons in Chicago and will likely be the fourth outfielder behind
Tyler Colvin, Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano. … Todd Ricketts, a
member of the Cubs’ board of managers, said the team is working on
choosing an architect and contractor for its new spring training
facility in Mesa. He said ground will likely be broken this fall
and the complex could be ready by 2013, but it will probably be