Pena says he has unfinished business in Tampa
Carlos Pena resurrected his career and had great on-field success during his first time around with the Rays. He liked playing for Joe Maddon. He enjoyed his teammates. He relished the lifestyle, living in a beach-front condo.
But the primary reason he chose to return, passing on potentially more lucrative offers from other teams, was the unfinished business he felt he left behind when he signed as a free agent with the Cubs last season.
"I always felt there's still one more chapter that needs to be written to this story," Pena said. "And here I have an opportunity, we have an opportunity, to give it a nice ending.
"We understand it started at, 'Once upon a time there was a ballclub called the Rays. ... ' We haven't gotten to that last page. I have incredible memories, but I'm looking to make some new ones. And some better ones."
The Rays hadn't planned on having the opportunity to bring back the slugging first baseman, who is the all-time franchise leader with 144 home runs.
But as the offseason went on, and they sought a way to increase the power in their lineup without diminishing their defense, Pena became a possibility, and they added his $7.25 million salary, pushing their 2012 payroll into the mid-$60 million range, well beyond their original plans.
They did so in part because of who Pena is, team president Matt Silverman said. And also, what they are confident he can do.
"He adds a dimension of power to our lineup we were missing last year and is a big part of our focus for this year, and we don't take a step back on defense," Silverman said.
"That combination, along with who he is, gave us the courage to extend ourselves."
Keppinger signing gives Rays some punch off the bench
--INF Jeff Keppinger was signed to a one-year contract to add an additional right-hand bat to the bench. Keppinger has impressive career numbers against left-handed pitchers, a .324 average, .371 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage, and is also known as a high-contact hitter.
--OF Justin Ruggiano and INF Russ Canzler were designated for assignment as the Rays cleared roster space for the additions of 1B Carlos Pena and INF Jeff Keppinger. It was the second straight year Ruggiano was bumped when the Rays made a major move late in the offseason. In 2011, it was to make room for Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. Ruggiano, who has parts of the last five seasons at Class AAA, would have the right to refuse an outright assignment. Canzler made his first appearance in the majors last season.
--Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee, the organization's top two shortstop prospects, have been invited to major league camp. Beckham, who is likely headed to Class AAA Durham, has been to camp twice before. Lee, targeted for Class AA Montgomery, will be making his first appearance. Also invited were Cs Craig Albernaz and Nevin Ashley, and pitchers Marquis Fleming, Ricky Orta and Ryan Reid.
--RHP Bryan Augenstein was signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp. He spent last season in the St. Louis organization, including five games with the Cardinals, and was 3-0 with a 4.04 ERA in 26 games at Class AAA Memphis.
--OF Matt Joyce, LHP David Price and RHP James Shields, the Rays' three 2011 All-Star selections, were grand marshals for the Jan. 28 Gasparilla parade in Tampa, an event which draws more than 300,000 people. "This is pretty cool," Shields said. "It's really a nice gesture by the community to get us in there. We feel pretty honored."
--LHP Matt Moore was ranked the game's No. 1 prospect by mlb.com, ahead of Washington's Bryce Harper and Los Angeles' Mike Trout. The Rays had six players in the top 100, matching the A's and Padres for most. Also ranked were SS Hak-Ju Lee, 46th; RHP Chris Archer, 76th; SS Tim Beckham, 92th; OF Mikie Mahtook, 96th; RHP Taylor Guerrieri, 99th.
BY THE NUMBERS: 144 -- Home runs by 1B Carlos Pena as a Ray, most in franchise history.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You make the right choice only if you listen to yourself. What makes sense for me? What's resonating with me? What decision makes me the happiest? And then you do it. There's no monetary value on that." -- 1B Carlos Pena, on his decision to return to the Rays.