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Carlos Peña hits a very, very long homer for Tampa Bay Rays

NEW YORK — Carlos Peña studied enough engineering to know how to do the math, but he couldn't estimate how far his home run to just about dead centerfield went Saturday.

"I knew I hit it pretty good," he said.

Several Rays guessed it went close to 500 feet. The consensus was the same ball hit at Tropicana Field would have landed at least on top of the Batter's Eye restaurant.

"Or over that into the brick area," Ben Zobrist said. "It was a shot."

Manager Joe Maddon suggested, with only some hyperbole given the roomy dimensions and lack of carry at new Citi Field, it surpassed Lou Brock's famous homer at the Polo Grounds as the longest to centerfield in any of the New York stadiums.

It was Peña's AL-leading 22nd homer, put the Rays up 2-1 in the seventh and, most impressive, came off one of the game's top lefties, Johan Santana.

"He's arguably the best out there," Peña said. "I think every single guy who's ever been in the batter's box facing Santana will tell you exactly the same thing: that it's not an easy task.

"I was trying to keep things as simple as possible and see the ball as well as I possibly could, and look what happened."

Peña's homer was his 99th as a Ray, tying Fred McGriff for second behind Aubrey Huff's 128.

Facing Santana was also a challenge for SS Jason Bartlett, who played with him in Minnesota. He grounded out on a changeup in the second but doubled to extend his career-long hitting streak to 15 in the fifth.

"It was fun to actually see (his changeup)," Bartlett said. "You hear all about it when you're playing with him. It's different when you're in that box."

Matt chat: Maddon met pre-game with RHP Matt Garza, who he suggested might have lost focus during his previous start when he allowed back-to-back homers. Maddon said the talk went well and Garza is very good at accepting constructive criticism.

"We were just talking about his last start; just pitches and stuff like that," Maddon said.

"I like how accountable our guys are becoming. When we talk about what had happened, they're right up front saying, 'I should have done this different.' … And I love it. That's how we're going to get better."

Familiar face: Today's Mets starter, Mike Pelfrey, could have been a Ray — twice. They drafted him in the 15th round in 2002, but he went to Wichita State. They took Wade Townsend with the No. 8 pick in 2005. The Mets picked Pelfrey next, and he has won 23 games.

Minor matters: Coaches Xavier Hernandez and Dave Myers will run Triple-A Durham as manager Charlie Montoyo might be away for several weeks as infant son Alex undergoes another heart surgery. … INF Cody Cipriano was 1-for-4 and Gregory Sexton 2-for-2 with an RBI representing Class A Charlotte in Saturday's FSL All-Star Game, and Darin Downs pitched a scoreless inning.

Rehab report: RHP Chad Bradford's return is not quite as imminent as it seemed. Bradford (right elbow surgery) pitched two scoreless innings for Durham on Saturday. Now the Rays want to see him in back-to-back outings later this week and possibly once more. … LHP Scott Kazmir (right quad strain, mechanics) starts Monday in Durham, when he'll face Red Sox prospect Clay Buchholz, and the Rays will decide after if he is ready to return or needs another minor-league appearance. "There's no finish line with that," Maddon said. "It could be one more, or it could be that would be it."

International incident: The Rays on Tuesday will formally announce the agreement to open the first baseball academy in Brazil run by a major-league team. The mayor of Marilia will attend.

Miscellany: After going 239 at-bats without grounding into a double play, Carl Crawford has done so three times in his past 39. He hadn't done so in back-to-back games since Aug. 15-17, 2007. … The game was delayed 73 minutes by rain. More is forecast for today. … Seventh-round pick OF Cody Ross signed, passing on Texas A&M, the Longview (Texas) News-Journal reported.

Carlos Peña hits a very, very long homer for Tampa Bay Rays 06/20/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 21, 2009 7:43am]
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