ST. PETERSBURG — 1B Carlos Peña decided he was done playing baseball in August 2014 after being sent from the majors back to Triple A by the Rangers, 36 years old and limited by a sore hamstring. He went home to Orlando, enjoyed all aspects of being a family man, and limited his on-field activity to playing softball — left-center, mind you — on a church league softball team.
But he wasn't officially finished until Friday, when he signed an honorary contract to rejoin and then retire with the Rays, for whom he starred during five seasons and played a key role in their transformation to contenders.
"The Rays, for me, was a family. It still is," Peña said. "I was so deeply emotionally, mentally, spiritually invested in this ballclub. I went all out. That made the defeats a lot more painful. But, I'll tell you what, when we actually did win, and when we achieved, I can tell you, I can guarantee you, no one on this Earth enjoyed it more than I did because I lived it so intently because of how much it meant to me."
Accompanied by more than 50 relatives, including his parents, and friends, Peña recounted his "miraculous" journey and praised many for helping him along the way. Presented his No. 23 jersey by baseball operations president Matt Silverman, Peña — who looks like he could still play — said it felt "like old times" as he pulled it on, recounting many memories, topped by the clinching out of the 2008 ALCS over Boston.
"I wore this with a lot of pride," Peña said. "I can say that I was part of the first — and the first only happens once in a lifetime. First winning season, first postseason berth, first American League East championship. … I am so grateful I was part of the most precious times of this organization, times that have set the standard for excellence."
JENNINGS DONE: OF Desmond Jennings' lost season is officially over due to a tooth infection so severe it required oral surgery that included a bone graft.
Jennings had been working his way back from his latest left knee issue, a bruise that sidelined him after he played just 10 games in his return from surgery. In 28 games this season he hit .268 with one homer and seven RBIs, while making $3.1 million.
"It's been a tough year, obviously," Jennings said. "Can't go nowhere but up at this point, hopefully. Don't know how much lower you can go from here. It is what it is."
Manager Kevin Cash, who was confident Jennings would have returned from the knee injury, said it was a frustrating season for all sides. He said the benefit of the dental issue was that it allows Jennings more time to rest and strengthen the knee going into next season.
EX-RAY ARRESTED: Former Rays minor-leaguer Brandon Martin was arrested in connection with two murders in California. Martin, 22, was a 2011 supplemental first-round pick (38th overall, getting $860,000) who did not play in 2014 and was released in March 2015. He got no higher than Class A. Per reports, he is accused of shooting two men and injuring a third Thursday, then was arrested Friday in Corona, after a pursuit that included K-9 units.
NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: LHP Blake Snell headlined the class of minor-leaguers honored by the Rays before Friday's game.
Snell's 15-4, 1.41 season got him named the overall minor-league player of the year per Baseball America and USA Today, as well as the Rays' top pitcher, but not to get called up.
"It was cool just to be here and see this," said Snell, 22. "I wish I was not in a suit, I wish I in a uniform. But I'm just excited to be a part of it."
INF Richie Shaffer, who has been with Rays since Sept. 1, was honored as their top minor-league player. The Rays also introduced RHP Mark Sappington as the Erik Walker Community Champion, MVPs of their nine affiliates and other award winners (see list, left).
MEDICAL MATTERS: Cash said LHP Xavier Cedeno, out since Sept. 5 due to left side tightness, could be available tonight after coming through Thursday's workout well. ... C Curt Casali (hamstring) continues to progress and will hit Sunday when LHP Jake McGee (knee surgery) throws his second simulated game.
MISCELLANY: 2B Logan Forsythe and CF Kevin Kiermaier were rested and not in the lineup. … Lakeland's Steve Pearce had his third multi-homer game for the Orioles; Plant High RHP Mychal Givens pitched two innings. … The Rays hosted Nicholas Sierra, the fifth-grader who Thursday helped rescue several Bryant Elementary classmates after their school bus crashed into a pond.