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Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Peña excited to take part in All-Star home run derby

ST. LOUIS — Every day, Rays 1B Carlos Peña works on hitting the ball on the line and to the opposite field. Tonight, he and the seven others in the home run derby will be all-out swinging for the fences.

"I just want to be in it," Peña said Sunday. "I just want to go over there and have a good time. … Whether I win it or come in dead last, I just want the full experience."

Peña joins an AL squad for the derby that includes Detroit's Brandon Inge, Texas' Nelson Cruz and Minnesota's Joe Mauer.

The NL squad is a bit more heavily armed, featuring hometown favorite Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, along with San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, Milwaukee's Prince Fielder and Philadelphia's Ryan Howard, a native of nearby Wildwood, Mo.

Peña's pitcher will be the Rays' tireless batting practice pitcher, Scott McNulty.

THE REPLACEMENTS: Career saves leader Trevor Hoffman of the Brewers and Pirates lefty Zach Duke were added to the NL squad, replacing injured Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton and Giants starter Matt Cain, who was hit by a line drive Saturday.

"You relish the opportunity," Hoffman, 41, said of his seventh All-Star appearance. "You don't know how often these come along."

Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia, who was replaced by Peña, withdrew to attend to his wife, Kelli, who is seven months pregnant and was hospitalized after going into premature labor.

"It's pretty tough," Pedroia said. "Obviously, I've got to be with my wife right now. That's more important. I'm extremely honored to be selected by the fans. I wish I could be there, but I hope everybody understands."

Maddon bypassed Texas 2B Ian Kinsler in picking Peña, but he didn't sound too upset in talking to Texas media: "It's not my right to go."

MADDON'S DAY: Manager Joe Maddon and the rest of the Rays contingent arrived by chartered jet Sunday night. He will have a busy day today, starting with a morning news conference where he will name his starting pitcher (likely Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays) and unveil his batting order, with Aaron Hill starting at second in place of Pedroia.

He'll also have the first of two meetings with his team before the afternoon batting practice and workout, going over the schedule and mechanics of the day and hoping to talk to each player individually to tell them how they are likely to be used as he has tried to "choreo­graph" the game. For example, how many innings a starter will play, knowing the first pinch-hitter won't get to play the field, etc.

Then he gets to address the full squad again prior to Tuesday's game in a speech that is supposed to be "somehow more inspirational."

Maddon said he'll keep that pretty low-key.

"Of course these guys understand why they're there and what's at stake," he said. "But I'm looking forward to having the chance to address these guys and congratulate them on being appointed to the All-Star team and furthermore what an honor it is for me to be the manager of this team. It's a unique moment for all of us."

FUTURE-RAMA: Rays OF prospect Desmond Jennings wasn't slowed by the wet conditions that caused a four-plus hour delay Sunday in the Futures Game, stealing three bases. Jennings, who plays for Double-A Montgomery, was 0-for-3 but reached twice on a walk and an error. The Rays' other participant was Class A Bowling Green OF Kyeong Kang, who made the last out in the top of the seventh and final inning after the World team rallied for three runs and won 7-5.

Information from Times staff writer Joe Smith and the Associated Press was used in this report.

fast facts

All-Star events

• Home run derby, 8 tonight, ESPN, 1040-AM

• All-Star Game, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Ch. 13

Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Peña excited to take part in All-Star home run derby 07/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 13, 2009 12:03am]
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