Posted on: January 20, 2012 5:10 pm
Carlos Pena to Tampa Bay is cute in a homecoming sort of way, sure. But could it be more than that? You bet.
Ever so quietly -- as usual -- the Rays are working smart and putting together another team down there by the water that will give the Yankees, Red Sox and everyone else fits this summer.
Maybe Pena, at 33, struggles to stay above the Mendoza Line anymore. But he did whack 28 homers for the Cubs last summer while collecting 80 RBI, which was exactly ... 28 more homers and 79 more RBI than the Rays got from Manny Ramirez in 2011.
Nobody, surely starting with the Rays, is expecting Pena to replicate his 2009 All-Star season (39 homers, 100 RBIs).
But Pena trumps Manny by about 1,000 miles both on the field and in the clubhouse. Together, Pena and Luke Scott, whom the Rays added as a DH bat earlier this month, should be a much more productive first base/DH combination than last year's Casey Kotchman/Johnny Damon tag team.
In fact, the Rays last summer ranked dead last among major-league first basemen in 2011 in both runs scored and RBI. Overall, Tampa Bay's 707 runs scored ranked eighth in the AL.
In Pena and Scott, they should get more production. And with a killer rotation in James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and rookie Matt Moore or Jeff Niemann -- the Rays' 3.58 ERA in 2011 was second in the AL only to the Angels' -- there is no reason why it shouldn't carry Joe Maddon's club deep into September once again.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 7:07 pm
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays always have been dependent on B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria. But after taking massive losses this winter, especially in Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay is going to be need those two more than ever.
Upton is coming off of a highly disappointing year in which he batted a career-low .237 with 164 strikeouts. Only Detroit's Austin Jackson (170) had more in the AL.
The Rays are bullish on him bouncing back strongly this year, partly because his talent is so rich and partly because they know his character.
"B.J. does a lot of things really well," general manager Andrew Friedman says. "The fact that he had such an incredible year in 2007 (.300, 24 homers, 82 RBI, 22 steals), the expectation bar is extremely high.
"At times, we all get caught up in the 'He's not matching or exceeding that.' But when you just step back and watch what he does do, he brings a lot to a team in terms of what he does defensively, what he does on the bases."
As Friedman notes, Upton is one of only two players last year who had 40 or more stolen bases and 60 or more extra-base hits.
"The other one got $142 million from the Red Sox," the GM says.
Longoria, a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, quietly has grown into a leader in just three seasons. That said, he is not looking to force things in that department in this post-Crawford and Pena spring.
"I'm not going to look at myself as the veteran," Longoria said. "I'm going to look at myself as I have every year, come here and work hard and maybe continue to set that precedent or be a leader but not vocally. Mainly based just off of my actions and what I do both on and off the field to prepare myself."
-- Tampa Bay has won two of the past three AL East titles, but this is a completely different challenge this year. Which suits this eclectic bunch just fine. Maddon already has chosen his theme for the season: "Another Way."
"One, you've got to look at our manager," Longoria says. He's a player's manager, a real easy manager to play for. A lot of guys who haven't been here in the past have come in here and feel very comfortable playing for him. In turn, it makes it comfortable for them to play, it's an easy environment.
"In turn, I think that's going to play a big part in how we come together as a team. Everybody understanding that we're all here for a reason and Joe's going to make it easy playing for him. The challenge is there, but the challenge is there every year. We understand that."
Sunblock Day: Starting to sound like a broken record, but simply exquisite. Sun, 80s, no humidity.
Likes: The three signs Maddon has posted on the wall in the clubhouse for the players to soak in. One is from legendary coach John Wooden: "Discipline yourself so no one else has to." Another is from Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve: "Rules cannot take the place of character." And the third is from philosopher Albert Camus: "Integrity has no need of rules." ... Bill Chastain, Rays beat writer for MLB.com, has just had a new paperback novel published, Peachtree Corvette Club. It's available on Amazon. ... Can't wait to see the Hank Steinbrenner-Derek Jeter Visa commercial. Tweeted that the other day and few seemed to get the joke. Remember, Hank's dad one year accused Jeter of staying out too late and next thing you knew, Jeter and George Steinbrenner were doing the conga line through a club in the classic Visa ad?
Dislikes: In a development more rare than an appearance from Halley's Comet, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band are firing up for a tour beginning next month. But they've only announced it a couple of shows at a time. We're up to a month's worth, the first 11 shows. Come on, man. Some of us have schedules to keep and summers to plan! Announce the whole tour already.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter"
-- Taylor Swift, Mine
Posted on: December 9, 2010 7:23 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2010 7:25 pm
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If I hear one more plastic Christmas song over the irritating speakers here at the Walt Disney Swan & Dolphin Resort before heading to the Mouse City Airport for the trip home, I'm going to. ...
Sorry, lost my head there for a moment.
What I meant to say was, a couple of quick parting thoughts as the Winter Meetings wrap up. ...
IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
White Sox: In U.S. Cellular Field, the country-strong Adam Dunn might hit 75 homers (OK, so I exaggerate, but just a bit). In the returning Paul Konerko, the White Sox have their soul back. Another nicely done job by the ultra-aggressive general manager Kenny Williams, his right-hand man Rick Hahn and, yes, owner Jerry Reinsdorf in arranging the funding to bring in both Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.
Diamondbacks: Turn new GM Kevin Towers loose for his first winter meetings in charge of the D-backs, and already Arizona's bullpen -- historically bad in 2010 -- is better. The Snakes signed J.J. Putz to close and acquired Daniel Hernandez and Kam Mickolio from the Orioles. And clearly, that's just the start.
Rays: The mass exodus has begun for the poor Rays. Left fielder Carl Crawford signed with Boston (seven years, $142 million), first baseman Carlos Pena with the Cubs (one year, $10 million), set-up man Joaquin Benoit with Detroit (three years, $16.5 million), shortstop Jason Bartlett was traded to San Diego and free agent closer Rafael Soriano is on deck to leave.
Of the eight pitchers who threw the most relief innings for manager Joe Maddon last year, seven of them are free agents. And of the total number of relief innings pitched, those seven accounted for 78 percent of those innings. Yikes.
Orioles: Not only did AL East-rival Boston become exponentially better, but the Orioles were stonewalled every which way they turned looking to acquire a first baseman (Pena, Dunn, Konerko). Then outfielder Luke Scott showed up at the winter meetings and shot his mouth off in a Yahoo Sports interview that started about his deer hunting and wound up with Scott saying he thought President Obama was born outside of the United States and that Obama "does not represent America. Nor does he represent anything what our forefathers stood for." The Orioles rushed to put out a news release distancing the club from Scott's comments. Not exactly your typical winter meetings strategy. On the other hand, the Orioles finally got a shortstop by acquiring J.J. Hardy from the Twins, and a third baseman by acquiring Mark Reynolds from the Diamondbacks.
Athletics: Reminiscent of Baltimore back in the day when then-GM Syd Thrift became so flustered at failing to land impact free agents that he said if was as he were trying to spend Confederate money. It was like that for Oakland when free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre essentially ignored a five-year, $64 million offer until the A's pulled it. Oakland also lost designated hitter Jack Cust, who signed with Seattle. The A's are desperate for offense. They likely will wind up with free agent DH Hideki Matsui, who is earnest and hard-working but can't play much anymore, or Vladimir Guerrero if he doesn’t return to Texas.
Posted on: December 8, 2010 1:53 am
Edited on: December 8, 2010 4:01 pm
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Moving to plug their hole at first base, the Cubs have agreed to terms with first baseman Carlos Pena on a one-year, $10 million deal that is expected to be announced Wednesday, sources with knowledge of the discussions said late Tuesday night.
Pena, part of Tampa Bay's surge toward the top of the AL East during the past three seasons, gives the Cubs the first baseman they need, the left-handed bat they desire and an excellent defender. Pena was awarded a Gold Glove in 2008.
A 10-year veteran, Pena over the past two seasons has become more of an all-or-nothing hitter. He slumped to a career-worst .196 batting average with a .325 on-base percentage over 144 games for the Rays in 2010, though he did hit 28 homers with 84 RBI.
He is just two seasons removed from a 39-homer, 100-RBI campaign, and in helping Tampa Bay to its first-ever World Series in 2007, Pena hit .282 with a career-high 46 home runs and 121 RBIs.
Among other things, the Cubs are hoping hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo can help Pena make more contact.
Posted on: December 7, 2010 3:00 pm
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Looking to plug their hole at first base, the Cubs are targeting free agent Adam LaRoche, according to CBSSports.com sources.
There are several available first basemen on the market, including Carlos Pena, Casey Kotchman, Paul Konerko (who is widely expected to agree to terms with the White Sox soon), Lyle Overbay and former Cub Derrek Lee.
The Cubs, who essentially created this opening when they traded Lee to Atlanta last summer, have talked with several of them but would like to close the deal with LaRoche soon.
LaRoche, 31, played in 151 games for Arizona last season, hitting .261 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI. He compiled a .320 on-base percentage and a .468 slugging percentage.
The seven-year veteran broke into the majors with Atlanta in 2004 and since has played for Pittsburgh, Boston and Arizona.
Currently, the Cubs' only option at first base is Tyler Colvin, who had a big rookie season at the plate in 2010 (.254, 20 homers, 54 RBI in 135 games) while spending all of his time in the outfield.
Looking to re-tool last season's highly disappointing club under new manager Mike Quade, the Cubs this winter need a first baseman and are planning to add pitching depth -- a starting or relieving, whichever comes their way and makes the most sense.
Posted on: October 27, 2008 6:09 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2008 7:32 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- Two of his most dependable sluggers buried in an 0-for-29 hole, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has shuffled his Game 5 lineup as the Rays attempt to push this World Series back to Florida.
The lineup changes for Monday night are not drastic, but Maddon did bump Carlos Pena (0-for-13, six strikeouts) from third to fourth and Evan Longoria (0-for-16 with nine strikeouts) from fourth to fifth.
Crawford is one of the few players hitting for the Rays, who are batting .187 overall as a team in this World Series. Crawford is hitting .267 with two homers and two RBI.
"It's bumping Carl up as much as anything, too," Maddon said. "I wanted to get Carl up there, and he's been a successful two-place hitter for us. And I wanted to unfreeze those two guys a little bit. The fact that they've had a little bit of problems in the normal slots for both of them, I thought just by giving them a little different perspective today may help."
Earlier this season, Maddon gave Pena a game off when he was slumping. There's no time for that now, though. It's called adjust on the fly. Maddon thinks both Pena and Longoria are pressing, and while the Phillies are making good pitches on them, his theory is that his guys simply are not waiting for what may be given to them.
"I see them getting themselves out more than anything," Maddon said. "I'm not denigrating the Phillies' game plan. I think it's wonderful. I know exactly what they're trying to do. From our perspective, we're permitting them."
"When you're making outs on strikes, your kind of pitch, that's one thing," Maddon continued. "But when you're making outs on their pitches, primarily ... again, it speaks to organizing your strikes on seeing pitches."
Posted on: October 27, 2008 2:54 am
PHILADELPHIA -- On one end of Tampa Bay's clubhouse late Sunday night, slumping third baseman Evan Longoria worked on mysteries without any clues.
Together, the two are 0-for-29 with 15 strikeouts in this World Series.
And unless they make a sudden turnaround, the Rays are not going to come back and win this thing.
Not like this.
"They've been pitching well," said Longoria, 0-for-16 with nine strikeouts. "You've got to give a lot of credit to them. They haven't left too many pitches over the plate to hit.
"But when you swing at bad ones and strike out, you can't complain."
Pena is 0-for-13 with six strikeouts.
"We were swinging the bats incredibly well in Boston," he said.
Difference here is, it's an even bigger stage and, more to the point, the Phillies appear to have scouted these two exceptionally well.
Philadelphia went into this series determined not to allow its staff to fall into familiar patterns with individual pitches. It's worked especially well on Pena, who looks completely lost. The Phillies pegged him as a "guess hitter", which is as it sounds: It means that he has a tendency to read counts and guess. When it's a fastball count, he looks for a fastball. Other times, maybe he is guessing slider, or change-up.
He's very proficient at it. He collected 31 homers and 102 RBI this season
He's got one RBI in this World Series. It came on a ground ball to second in the first inning of Game 2.
Longoria, who had 27 homers and 85 RBI this season, also has just one RBI in this series. It also came in the first inning of Game 2, on a ground ball to shortstop.
Other than that, the silence has been deafening.
And, to Tampa Bay, deadly.
"From my old hitting coach days, I can just see what's happening," manager Joe Maddon said. "I've been trying to relate to both of them exactly what the Phillies are trying to do to them. But you have to go up there in the batter's box yourself. ...
"I just think both guys are just out of their game a little bit right now, quite frankly, in regards to their strike zone. If I preach anything to them, it is to not expand their strike zone. Because more often than not ... the Phillies are making good pitches, absolutely, and they've done a pretty good job. But if we stick to our game plan, we'll be able to counter-punch them."
Pena said that the Rays "haven't done well focusing on what we need to focus on."
Longoria said that, "I think I'm just in one of those stages where I'm not locked in. I'm getting maybe two pitches per at-bat to hit. When you're locked in, you hit those pitches. Like tonight against (Ryan) Madson, I hit it foul."
Longoria absolutely crushed a Madson pitch in the eighth, but he was so far ahead of it he pulled it to the wrong side of the left-field foul pole, into the upper deck. He wound up striking out on the at-bat.
He also was unlucky in Game 3, walloping a ball to deep left field that would have been a home run had the wind not knocked it down.
The fixes must be quick, but they will not be easy. Tampa Bay's season is on the line, and the Cinderella story could be over in just nine innings on Monday night.
The Rays simply must keep grinding, Longoria said.
"We've been doing it all year," he said. "We've never given up. We've been written off plenty of times. I think the emotions will be high, and we'll be as excited about this game as any we've played all year."