photo credit: Dilip Vishnawat/Getty Images
Carlos Pena is adjusting to his new role on his new team, but sees a lot of his past in the Astros' future.
by Steve Carney, 620 WDAE
When visiting players arrive at Tropicana Field for a game, they pass by the Rays clubhouse on the way to the visiting clubhouse. When you're used to going into the home clubhouse at the Trop, like Carlos Pena, you have to consciously remember not to take the first left.
"I paused," Pena said Friday upon his return to St. Petersburg. "I paused and I hugged [Rays clubhouse guard Tom] Berte and I hugged all the guys that I could right there at the beginning because they're definitely a special place."
Pena is making his first trip in to Tampa Bay as an opposing player in seven years. He spent five years manning first base in first a Devil Rays uniform, then Rays gear.
Now in his first season in Houston, the 35-year-old sees a lot of similarities between this year's Astros and the 2007 Devil Rays team he made as a non-roster invitee, a team that may have lost 96 games, but set the path for the 2008 team that ended up winning the American League pennant.
"I walk around with a smirk on my face just thinking 'This is very similar,' and I keep it mostly to myself even though sometimes it's very difficult to keep it in," Pena said.
The Astros may be on pace to lose 105 games this year, but Pena believes the pieces are in place for Houston to contend soon.
"I do see good things in this team's future, and I pray to God that I can be around to see it and be part of it," he said. "I pray and wish that it will be the same here. I have faith that it will be, that I will see this team grown into the team that we ambition.
"And to be a part of that will be an honor."