Wily Pena hasn't played in a Major League game since 2011, and he hasn't played in the United States since then. He'll get his chance to try to work his way back to the big leagues with the Indians, who on Monday announced the signing of the slugging outfielder to
Wily Pena hasn't played in a Major League game since 2011, and he hasn't played in the United States since then. He'll get his chance to try to work his way back to the big leagues with the Indians, who on Monday announced the signing of the slugging outfielder to a Minor League contract.
The deal, first reported in the works last week, does not include an invitation to Major League camp. But for Pena, who hit 71 home runs over four seasons in Japan from 2012-15, the deal gives him a way back, while giving the Tribe a potential depth bat if the 35-year-old can find a semblance of his younger form with the discipline of an experienced hitter.
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Pena, a friend and former teammate of newly signed Edwin Encarnacion, last played in Japan's Pacific League in 2015 for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He hit .268 (109-for-406) with 20 doubles, 17 home runs, 40 RBIs and an .845 OPS. He hit 32 homers for Orix a year earlier.
In 2011, Pena hit .204 (23-for-113) with seven home runs and 15 RBIs between the Mariners and D-backs. His 39 strikeouts that season were in line with his career rate and reflective of why he struggled to stick in the Majors despite his immense ability. He has more strikeouts (559) than hits (425) for his Major League career.
Pena's strikeout rate dropped over his final couple of seasons in Japan, while his walk rate improved, adding some intrigue to his case.
Pena will report with position players to the Indians' Minor League camp in Goodyear, Ariz., when camp opens in early March.
Jason Beck has covered baseball for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.