Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Patience pays off for Rays' Pena


Sometimes, a man has to wait for his success to arrive.

Sometimes, no matter the circumstance, he has to have faith that it eventually will come along.

Consider, for instance, the long journey of Carlos Pena.

The latest leg of it came in the bottom of the fourth inning of Friday night's victory by the Rays, and at the time, Pena was halfway through the longest home run trot in the history of major-league baseball.

At the moment, Pena stood at second base with his hands folded on his hips, looking to all the world like a guy waiting for a bus. In reality, what he was waiting for was a bit of history.

And he waited. And he waited. And he waited.

For four minutes and 10 seconds, Pena stood there, waiting for umpires to reverse their initial call of a two-base hit. The crowd was going crazy, and his teammates were yelling for him to keep running, and the umpires had disappeared, and after a while, you wondered if they had become interested in America's Toughest Jobs.

"It was a long time," Pena, 30, said. "I was thinking about what I'm going to do tomorrow, what I'm going to eat. I got my whole day planned."

Then it happened — major-league baseball's first instance of instant replay being used to overturn a call into a home run — and finally, good things had come to Pena.

If that sounds familiar, well, it's also the story of Pena's season.

He has spent much of this season waiting, smiling and swinging, refusing to give into a simply awful start. Last season, he was the AL Comeback Player of the Year, and for the first three months of this season, he looked like the AL Going Back Down Again Player of the Year.

Lately, however, when it has meant the most, Pena has once again looked like the power threat that he was last year. This is the lesson that Pena has to offer. He is smiling now, and much of the reason is that he found a way to smile then.

Remember the early part of the season? Pena was hitting .219 after May, .228 after June. He struck out 70 of his first 196 trips to the plate.

And still, Pena would grin and shrug. He did not kick the furniture, although no one would have blamed him. He did not slap around the watercooler, no matter how much it was asking for it. From time to time, Pena did a little silent seething on the bench, but it never lasted very long.

"Sure, I was frustrated," Pena said. "I'm human. I would get disappointed. But I like enjoying myself. You have a choice. We can focus on something negative, or we can focus on something positive. It's my mind. I can do whatever I want with it in spite of what is happening around me. I choose to keep a smile on my face. It's more fun."

Lately, Pena has put smiles on a lot of teammates' faces. He now has 31 home runs and 96 RBIs, which is pretty close to any reasonable expectation of him.

Since the All-Star break, he has 17 home runs, which is second in the American League (to Detroit's Miguel Cabrera) and third in the majors (to the Mets' Carlos Delgado and Cabrera). Over the past two seasons, Pena has 77 home runs. In the American League, only the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez has more.

Who knew? There is also such a thing as the left-handed power of positive thinking.

When Pena is at his best, he is a disciplined, selective hitter. It is only when he starts chasing pitches, trying to force the issue, that he gets himself into trouble.

That isn't happening now. For instance, in Pena's second plate appearance on Friday, he walked with the bases loaded. Perhaps that doesn't sound like much, but it was the eighth time in his career that Pena has drawn a bases-loaded walk. Since baseball began charting the statistic in 1998, no player has more.

Then, there was the replayed homer. Perhaps Pena had that coming, too. Two or three times before, Pena estimates, he has hit balls that he thought were home runs that were ruled doubles. One of them came this year in Seattle. Pena would have loved to have that one replayed, too.

"I think it's fair for everybody," Pena said.

In other words, there isn't much reason for frustration these days. Still, Pena has a suggestion.

"You know, a punching bag would be a great piece of equipment," Pena said, grinning. "You don't want people taking baggage out to the field, do you? You could get a punching bag, beat the crap out of it and you'd be happy again. You could beat it with a bat."

The way he is going lately, of course, the punching bag might end up on the other side of the wall.

Eventually, the umps would figure that out, too.

Patience pays off for Rays' Pena 09/19/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 20, 2008 10:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. U.S. repeats as Solheim Cup champion


    WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Lexi Thompson set the tone by rallying from four holes down. The rest of the Americans took it from there and restored their dominance in the Solheim Cup

    Lexi Thompson, left, comes back from four holes down to halve the day’s first singles match with Europe’s Anna Nordqvist to set the tone for the United States.
  2. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Demar Dotson (mild groin strain) expected back for opener


    TAMPA — The Bucs got good news Sunday on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI exam showed only a mild right groin sprain and who should be back at practice next week.

    Tackle Demar Dotson has only a mild groin strain.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush


    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Rays journal: Jake Faria heads to DL with left abdominal strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jacob Faria made the trek he didn't want to take after his last start. It was to the trainer's room. The pain in his left abdominal went from nagging to an issue during his start that night in Toronto.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jacob Faria (34) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 4, 2017.