Pena notched nine strikeouts over 3.1 innings in Sunday's 8-4 exhibition win over the Dodgers. He yielded one run in the outing, giving up three hits and issuing two walks. Pena had already secured his spot in the Angels' Opening Day rotation heading into the weekend, but his stellar showing in the Freeway Series might only help his case for sticking in a starting role once Andrew Heaney (elbow) is cleared to return from the injured list. After finishing the spring with a 3.07 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 14.2 innings, Pena should at the very least make for an interesting streaming option in his first regular-season start Saturday at pitcher-friendly Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Pena struck out five and gave up two runs on three hits and two walks over 2.2 innings Wednesday in the Angels' 9-3 exhibition loss to the Padres. Pena entered the spring as a competitor for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but Jaime Barria was always viewed as the heavy frontrunner for that role. Barria remains in line for a starting gig, but Pena's hopes for winning a rotation spot are still alive with Andrew Heaney (elbow) currently shut down and likely to open the campaign on the injured list. Along with Pena, Dillon Peters is in the mix to replace Heaney, but Pena's respectable numbers across 19 outings (17 starts) with the Angels in 2018 probably give him the edge. It may take a complete collapse over his final two starts of the spring for Pena to lose out to Peters.
Pena won't start Sunday's season finale against the Athletics due to workload concerns, Maria Guardado of MLB.com reports. Pena was lined up for a two-start week after taking the hill Monday and tossing seven quality frames against the Rangers, but that outing will go down as his final appearance of 2018. Between Triple-A Salt Lake and the big club this season, the 28-year-old accumulated 126 innings, an increase of more than 50 innings from the workload he handled in 2017. Due to an open date in the schedule Thursday, Matt Shoemaker will be available to make the start for Pena on Sunday on his normal four days' rest. Though Pena will miss out on another opportunity to impress, the 4.18 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 85:28 K:BB he delivered across 92.2 innings with the Angels this season should put him in the thick of contention for a rotation spot next spring.
Pena allowed three earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out six across seven innings Monday against the Rangers. He did not factor into the decision. Pena surrendered two long balls to the Rangers, but otherwise held their lineup in check during an impressive outing that saw him generate 14 swinging strikes on only 89 total pitches. The 28-year-old has now completed at least six innings in seven of his last eight starts, during which he has allowed more than three earned runs only twice. He quietly holds a 4.18 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with 85 strikeouts across 92.2 innings.
Pena (3-5) took the loss Wednesday, allowing six runs on six hits and a walk while striking out three over four innings against the Athletics. All of the damage came in a six-run fourth inning, as Pena allowed the first seven men to reach before recording an out in the frame. The 28-year-old entered Wednesday's matchup amidst a stretch of four straight quality starts, but this blowup ballooned his ERA nearly half a run to 4.20. He'll look to bounce back next time out, Monday against the Rangers.