On way out, Pena thanks Astros for chance
Carlos Pena is an Astro through and through. Even after being designated for assignment on Sunday, he was in the clubhouse wearing his Astros cap.
“I’m an Astro to the end,” said Pena, who was warmly greeted by teammates with hugs and well wishes. “I believe what’s going on here.”
Pena, 35, and Ronny Cedeno, 30, both in their first year in Houston, were cut loose by the club, which brought up shortstop Jonathan Villar, 22, from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
“It’s never easy,” said Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. “Both Carlos and Ronny were a big part of this team this year. It’s going to be a different club without them, a younger club.”
On Tuesday, 23-year-old Jarred Cosart will make his second major league start against Oakland. In Cosart’s debut on July 12, the right-hander had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning and settled for two hits allowed in eight scoreless innings.
Recalling Cosart and moving Villar up brings more youth to the team. But at the same time the Astros will miss Pena and Cedeno.
“The two best veteran guys I’ve ever played with,” said Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez, who is in his third year with Houston. “From the beginning they’ve been supported of all of us. We haven’t had guys like that since I’ve been here.
“They’ve been helping a lot of young guys out as much as they can while worrying about their own game.”
Right-hander Jordan Lyles especially hated to see Pena go.
“The best teammate I’ve ever had,” said Lyles. “I gave him a hug before and I’m going to hug him again.”
In 85 games Pena was hitting .209 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs. He hit a 10th inning walk-off home run in Houston’s 7-4 win over Milwaukee on June 20. In 51 games Cedeno was hitting .220.
Pena was signed by Houston as a free agent on Dec. 17, 2012 to provide leadership and hopefully add power to the lineup. Pena has 285 major league home runs, hitting 46 with Tampa Bay in 2007. In 2009 with the Rays he was co-leader in the American League with New York’s Mark Teixeira for the home run lead with 39.
But things just didn’t work out as planned in Houston for Pena, who is not bitter, but pleased to have played for the Astros.
“This isn’t how we envisioned it,” said Pena. “This team will mature and get to that vision. It’s a great group of men. I see great things for the Houston Astros. I know things will be better. I feel I have a lot of ball left.
“I’m very sad and I will miss the friends I got very close to. I’m appreciative of the opportunity they gave me.”