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Pena learned plenty as Jeter's understudy

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While spending the first eight years of his professional career with the Yankees, Ramiro Pena found his path to the Major League level blocked by Derek Jeter's presence. But as he prepares to enter his second straight season as Atlanta's primary backup infielder, Pena continues to count himself fortunate to have benefited from Jeter's tutelage.

Whether during Spring Training or those stretches he spent with the Yankees at the big league level, Pena could also count on Jeter to provide him guidance in the clubhouse, on the bench or simply while they were taking turns fielding ground balls at the shortstop position.

"He was helping me a lot," Pena said. "I didn't have much of a chance to play there. But at the same time, he was teaching me a lot, too."

Given a chance to play much more frequently when he was introduced to the National League style of play last year, Pena thrived through the first two months he spent with Atlanta last year. The versatile infielder proved dependable in the field and hit .278 with a .773 OPS in the 107 plate appearances he tallied before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in June.

Pena has not been restricted from any activities during the early portion of Spring Training. The lingering shoulder discomfort he has felt has come after he has reintroduced his arm to the various slots from which he will have to throw, accounting for things such as turning a double play or making a diving stop that requires a sidearm delivery.

"Every once in a while, my arm gets sore," Pena said. "But as soon as I get treatment and a massage, it's fine."

Along with having the ability to play each of the infield positions, the 28-year-old switch-hitter also gives the Braves offensive versatility. But Pena will likely be used primarily off the bench against right-handed pitchers.

Pena batted .313 (25-for-80) and hit each of his three home runs against right-handers last year. He notched two hits, while recording just 17 at-bats, from the right side of the plate.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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