Saturday, April 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays re-sign first baseman Carlos Peña

ST. PETERSBURG — Carlos Peña can be a loquacious and inspirational speaker, but on Friday he needed only two words — well, and five exclamation points — in a text message to convey how he felt about returning to the Rays:

"Sooooo excited ... !!!!!"

Peña is headed back after agreeing to terms on a one-year, $7.25 million contract that is expected to be officially announced — and thoroughly discussed — after his physical exam on Tuesday.

The deal is the second step, following last week's signing of DH Luke Scott, of what the Rays project to be a significant upgrade of their offense.

Peña averaged 36 homers and 102 RBIs during his 2007-10 stint with the Rays, while playing stellar defense and providing clubhouse leadership, and both he and the team would welcome a repeat performance.

"I'm pumped he's back," pitcher David Price said. "Great guy on the field but even better in the clubhouse. Hopefully he can do what he's done the last five years and hit a ton of homers for us. And he's a stud on D, too."

Peña, 33, was among the high-salaried players who left the Rays after the 2010 season, signing a one-year, $10 million deal with the Cubs (and hitting 28 homers), but saying the Rays were special to him and he hoped to return one day.

The opportunity presented itself as the Rays sought to improve an offense that finished eighth in the American League (and last among East teams) in runs while not diminishing their baseball-best defense. And they were willing to spend to do so, their payroll increased about 50 percent to about $63 million from last season's $41 million.

Scott replaced Johnny Damon, and now Peña has done so to Casey Kotchman, the St. Petersburg native and Seminole High product who had an impressive bounceback season in 2011, hitting .306, though with only 10 homers and 48 RBIs.

In a text message Kotchman said: "I had fun playing with my AWESOME teammates at home in front of my friends and family!" The Indians are said to be interested.

The Peña package includes a low batting average and high number of strikeouts (.238, and an average of 157 during four seasons in Tampa Bay), but the Rays were obviously more interested in the power potential.

With Peña and Scott the Rays have a deep and balanced lineup that features at least six hitters capable of 20-plus homers — also Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist — and potentially a seventh, as Desmond Jennings hit 10 in 63 games as a rookie last season. There are still concerns at shortstop, where Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez will compete, and catcher, where Jose Molina is the only experienced player.

"The lineup is shaping up pretty nicely," Longoria said.

"It's looking pretty good," pitcher James Shields said. "I'm excited. Carlos is awesome. He's a leader. He's got a great attitude and brings it every day. We need that in our clubhouse. We need guys like that in our clubhouse."

Peña resuscitated his career when he came to the Rays in 2007 on a minor-league contract, having been released by Detroit the previous spring and spending most of 2006 in the minors. He hit 46 homers and drove in 121 runs (with a .282 average) in 2007 and finished ninth in the AL MVP voting, won a Gold Glove while hitting 31 in 2008 and made the All-Star team in 2009 on the way to hitting 39. He dropped off to 28 homers — with 84 RBIs and a .196 average — in 2010.

He also has a large impact in the clubhouse, where he provides a perpetually positive attitude and bilingual leadership on a daily basis and has delivered several impassioned speeches, most famously before Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS against Boston.

"Carlos was a part of the Rays family and everyone knows what kind of guy he is," Shields said. "He's a really good teammate, a really good guy to have."

"He's a great player and a solid clubhouse guy," Longoria said. "I'm excited to welcome him back."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow his coverage on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

Lined up

The Rays will — naturally — consider numerous batting orders, especially vs. right- and left-handed pitchers. Here's one way they could line up, basically alternating right-handed (R) and left-handed (L) hitters:

1. LF Desmond Jennings (R)

2. DH Luke Scott (L)

3. 3B Evan Longoria (R)

4. 1B Carlos Peña (L)

5. 2B Ben Zobrist (S)

6. CF B.J. Upton (R)

7. RF Matt Joyce (L)

8. C Jose Molina (R)

9. SS Sean Rodriguez (R) or Reid Brignac (L)

Comments
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

UPDATE, 4:17: CF Kevin Kiermaier was back at the Trop, and at one point on the field with a glove on his left hand and protective wrapping on his right, the day after surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right thumb. He said the surgery went "as good ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

The Rays have made it official – or as official as things can be with them – in naming RHP Yonny Chirinos as the fourth starter in their rotation.The Rays had been using three, and two "Bullpen Day" slots when playing five straight days.B...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Archerís sparkling start precedes surreal finish

Archerís sparkling start precedes surreal finish

By now, we presume you've had a few hours to digest the Rays' improbable 10-inning triumph Friday night.So instead of rehashing the whole bizarre body of work, how 'bout a closer look at the workmanship. Specifically, Chris Archer's.Partially lost in...
Published: 04/21/18
Now Batting in Double A: Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero

Now Batting in Double A: Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero

HARTFORD, Conn. — Craig Breslow is 37 years old, with a dozen years of experience as a left-handed reliever in the major leagues. He is pitching now for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, just getting to know his teammates. In their openin...
Published: 04/21/18
Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

ST. PETERSBURG — Roughly four hours before taking the field against his former team Friday, Rays outfielder Denard Span spoke admirably about the Minnesota Twins, their organization in general, even hometown icon Joe Mauer.But business is busin...
Published: 04/20/18
Rays journal: Miller back from DL, KK surgery successful

Rays journal: Miller back from DL, KK surgery successful

ST. PETERSBURG — For a change, the physically snake-bitten Rays got some vigor, versatility and even a veteran presence back in their lineup  when INF Brad Miller was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list.To make room, they DFA'd INF/OF...
Published: 04/20/18