Q&A with the Rays' Carlos Pena
The Rays aren't in the postseason, but their first baseman is. Carlos Pena is working the postseason for the MLB Network, offering studio analysis on Path to the Pennant, a nightly pregame and postgame show. Pena, whose season ended on Sept. 7 when he broke two fingers on his left hand while trying to check his swing on a fastball from Yankees ace CC Sabathia, made his MLB Network debut on Monday. He can be seen throughout the rest of the postseason. On Tuesday, Pena spoke with Two Cents by telephone from the MLB Network headquarters in New Jersey and talked about his new part-time job, memories from last year's postseason and why he wants the Yankees to lose in this postseason.
You made your MLB Network debut on Monday night. How was it?
It was so much fun. The guys were unbelievable and made me feel really comfortable.
It seems like the show is just one big conversation about baseball.
Exactly. We just go out there and talk about the game through each of our own perspectives. It's like sitting around the lounge at Tropicana Field with the guys talking baseball.
What's the process like as far as putting together the show?
We watch the games and then look for things we think are interesting to talk about after the game. The great thing is we all bring a different perspective. I'm a different type of hitter than, say, Sean Casey and we each have our own perspective. Then there are guys like Mitch Williams and Barry Larkin and Harold Reynolds and each of them bring their own perspective based on their experiences. Because we're all different and seeing the game through different eyes, we're covering all the angles and that's what makes it so good, I think.
Many of the analysts are former players, but you still play. Is it harder to be critical because you still are playing against the players you are talking about on the air?
Well, I just think I bring the perspective of the active player as opposed to a former player. That's how I see my role. I talk about what it's like playing right now against these guys.
As you're watching this postseason, are you thinking a lot about last year and the Rays' postseason run?
Oh, man, I wish we were out there celebrating because I don't think there is anyone in the world who can celebrate like we can. Last year was so special, going from last to first. It may happen again, but I don't think what we did can ever be duplicated. But hopefully we can take it the next step by winning the World Series.
What is being in the postseason like?
It is absolutely amazing. You feel blessed. You feel so fortunate because so few get to experience it. You almost cannot explain it. It's so intense and you feel the energy of the crowd. Everything is just super intense and you never forget it.
What have you thought of the postseason so far?
I was very disappointed when the Twins didn't advance. Colorado, too. I always pull for the underdog teams that may not be the favorite on paper and don't have the high payrolls. They play just on pure passion and talent and they aren't huge giants, like the Yankees and Red Sox. That's what I enjoy, teams that rise to the occasion and make the impossible happen. Maybe it's because of what we did last year, but I like when the underdog shakes up the world.
Were you surprised the Red Sox were swept by the Angels?
I was. Again, the Yankees and Red Sox? I cannot deny that I'm pulling against them. I love the guys themselves -- David Ortiz and (Kevin) Youkilis. I like the Yankee players. But it's not about the players. It's about me spending so much energy all year trying to beat them that you cannot turn around and then root for them. I was happy the Angels beat the Red Sox.
How do you see the Angels-Yankees series playing out?
To me, it doesn't matter. I just want the Angels to win. (Laughs) Supposedly I'm supposed to be a guest "analyst,'' but maybe they should call me the guest "fan.'' But I'm still offering the best perspective and analysis I can.
What about Dodgers-Phillies?
There’s something about the Dodgers. I like their lineup, I like the way they’'e playing right now. ... They have a nice dynamic on that team and I think they have what it takes to beat the Phillies.
Before you go, how's the hand?
Doing great. I'm actually holding the phone with that hand as a part of my therapy. I'm just doing a lot of different things to improve the strength and it feels a lot better.
Are you holding a bat yet?
No, not yet. I’m just going through the therapy and won't start doing anything like holding a bat until it's all the way 100 percent.
When will that be?
Hopefully by the end of the month. Right now, it's all about strength and mobility, so I'm doing exercises to improve that, but everything should be back to normal soon and I'll be ready to go for next season.