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

Chicago Cubs.

Pena says winning in Chicago, where the Cubs’ World Series title

drought could reach 103 years this season, would be an

unforgettable experience.

”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