The Tampa Bay Rays have an off night tonight before they begin series entertaining Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles, so I am gonna write about yesterday’s victory against the Blue Jays courtesy of a walk-off grand slam provided by newly acquired catcher, Greg Zaun.
As it turns out, that wasn’t the only big hit that day for the Rays. First baseman, Carlos Pena connected for a double earlier in the game and it was the 150th double of his career. This might not seem like a huge deal, Albert Pujols hit the 150 plateau early in his 4th season (he has 372 career) but things haven’t come as easily for Carlos Pena. So it is, in fact a big deal and will be the topic of my first non-trading post in a while. To give you an idea of the context of 150 doubles from a historical persective-Tris Speaker is the All-Time career king with 792 two baggers. Hank Aaron is 10th with 624 and Luke Appling rounds out the top 100 with 440. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is the active career leader with 538 (29th All Time).
Carlos Pena’s career began when the Texas Rangers snagged him with their first round (10th overall) pick out of Northeastern University in 1998. He spent 4 seasons in their minor league system and had a 22-game-call-up in 2002 before Texas shipped him off to Oakland as part of a six-player deal that sent Ryan Ludwick to the Rangers. Pena played just 84 games with the A’s organization (half of them in AAA) before the A’s traded Pena, Jeremy Bonderman and Frankyn German to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Jeff Weaver. Carlos finished the 2002 season with Detroit, showing promises of power in hitting 12 homers in the final 75 games of the season, giving him 29 combined HR for that year. He would spend the entire year in Detroit in 2004 and hit 27 homers for the Tigers. In 2005, he split the year between Detroit and Toledo (AAA) hitting a total of 30 home runs. In 2006, the Tigers had lost interest (for some reason) in Pena and released during spring training. He was a man without a team for a month before the Yankees organization decided to take a chance and offer him a minor league contract. He played for Columbus (AAA) and hit 19 home runs in 105 games before they released him at his request. He then inked a minor league deal with the Boston Red Sox and was assigned to Pawtucket (AAA). He lit it up for the Paw Sox, hitting safely in all 11 games he played for them, batting .459 with 4 home runs and earning a September call-up to the Red Sox. Pena was ecstatic to play for his home town team; he went to high school in Massachusetts (Haverhill High) as well as College (Northeastern University). With the Sox, he batted .273 in the final 18 games of the year, hitting one home run, a walk-off to defeat the White Sox 3-2 in 10 innings. He did well for the Sox, but not well enough to be asked back the following year. The Rays extended him a non-roster invitation to spring training for the 2007 season. He didn’t make the cut and was reassigned to the minor league camp to battle for the starting first baseman job in Durham. That was until Rays first baseman Greg Norton hurt his knee in the second to last spring game of the year, opening up a roster spot for Pena. This didn’t give Pena the job full-time though, during April he platooned with Ty Wigginton before an injury to Akinori Iwamura freed up the 3rd base job for Wiggy and left Pena as the lone first baseman. He went on to rewrite the Rays record books that year, establishing single season marks in nearly every power category. He was named the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year, won the Silver Slugger Award and finished second in the AL with 46 home runs. He also hit .282, drove in 121, scored 99 times and hit 29 doubles. He walked 103 times and boasted a .627 SLG%. These were all career highs for Pena. After his remarkable season in ’07, Pena owned 104 career big league doubles to go along with the 171 two-baggers he hit along the way. A year and a half later, he just hit his 150th career big league double and he hasn’t played a game in the minors since. Obviously this mark isn’t his ticket to Cooperstown, but it is still a big deal. It is a big deal because it was a very long road getting there. A road that included 8 seasons in the minors, playing for 9 different teams in 6 different organizations, playing in 671 games and hitting 171 doubles. That is why this is a big; no make that huge, deal for Carlos Pena. Things have been great for him of late. He got a huge contract, a Gold Glove Award, a 2008 American League Championship ring and his first All Star appearance. He is currently leading the AL in home runs with 31, but he will never forget how long the road to the show was for him.
Pena’s minor league totals are as follows: 2,485 at bats, 704 hits, 171 doubles, 16 triples, 120 homeruns, 462 RBI, 446 runs scored, 409 walks, 23 intentional and 59 times hit by a pitch. His career batting average is .283 with a .393 OBP and .510 SLG%.
His MLB career numbers include 755 hits, 150 doubles, 194 home runs, 543 RBIs and 479 runs scored. He is currently batting .212 with 31 homers, 77 RBI and 75 runs scored.
As a side note, prior to a hit on Saturday night, Pena’s last hit that wasn’t a home run was 25 plate appearances prior, a double in the 10th inning against Boston on August 4. Congrats to Carlos Pena on this career milestone. Congrats to Greg Zaunn on the big game winning home run and congrats to the Rays for the victory which keeps them alive in the Wildcard hunt. Go Rays!!! Troll out.