Carlos Peña's fifth homer ties Tampa Bay Rays record

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon has said that with power hitters such as 1B Carlos Peña, home runs can come in "clumps."

It certainly has this week, with Peña on Friday hitting one for the fifth consecutive game. That tied Jose Canseco's team record set in 1999. The last American League player to do so was current Ray Hank Blalock in 2008 for Texas.

"I think if you have power, when you're consistently making good contact, you're going to drive the ball," Peña said. "I think it's more about feeling pretty decent at the plate and putting some good swings on it."

Peña moved back to the cleanup spot Friday, and Maddon said he'll stay there for the time being, especially with the Rays set to face several right-handers in a row. Maddon has tinkered with the lineup a lot and still might but wants it to have a more static look.

Maddon said Peña has looked better at the plate because he's accepting his walks, hitting to all fields and not chasing the pitches he did earlier this season.

"He's got to stay in his own hitting zones," hitting coach Derek Shelton said. "And when he does, we're starting to see the results. We're starting to see the impact on a ball."

Shelton said laying off pitches can be tough, especially when a hitter has been struggling, as Peña has been.

"It sounds really simple," Shelton said. "But when you're trying to get hits and you're trying to get something going, you've got to be disciplined to do it."

DRAFT BREEZE: First-round pick C Justin O'Conner was at Tropicana Field and signed, saying he's excited to begin his professional career. He'll report to the Gulf Coast League Rays in Port Charlotte. "I want to get down there as soon as I can and start playing," he said.

O'Conner, the 31st overall pick out of Cowan (Ind.) High, is green at the position, having started catching just two falls ago.

"We were at some fall league, and we ran out of catchers. So I jumped back there and started doing it," O'Conner said. "It's been clicking ever since."

Scouting director R.J. Harrison has said O'Conner's innate instincts, work ethic and ability have him believing his development behind the plate won't be a tough transition.

O'Conner admitted it was "pretty intimidating" meeting some of the Rays as well Maddon and senior adviser Don Zimmer.

"It was fun," he said.

STEPPING UP: Though RHP Matt Garza snapped a five-start winless streak June 5 in Texas, he's still not satisfied with how he has been throwing. He has allowed 13 earned runs over his past 17 innings, raising his ERA from 2.37 to 3.31.

"Not my usual self," he said. "I kind of got away from being aggressive, being me. It's just my fault."

MEDICAL MATTERS: SS Jason Bartlett tested his strained right hamstring by running the bases and said everything went well. That keeps him on track to return Tuesday.

He said he'll stand in and hit today as LHP David Price throws a bullpen session on the field.

Bartlett said he's glad he played it safe and went on the disabled list instead of trying to play through it.

"I wouldn't have been able to play up to my potential," he said. "And I might have made it worse."

Maddon said C Dioner Navarro, who was scratched Thursday due to a stiff neck, still wasn't feeling completely better but was available to play Friday.

MISCELLANY: The Rays gave up the DH when Blalock moved to third in the ninth.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Carlos Peña's fifth homer ties Tampa Bay Rays record 06/12/10 [Last modified: Saturday, June 12, 2010 10:51am]

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