Facing a defensive shift is nothing new to Cubs pull hitter Carlos Pena. But the former Tampa Bay Ray can’t remember facing one in spring training before.
So imagine his surprise when he drove a ball up the middle in the first inning Monday against a Milwaukee Brewers split-squad team and prepared to round first just as the throw arrived from the repositioned shortstop.
“I went, `Oh, where’d that guy come from?’ ” said Pena, who lost two potential base hits to Milwaukee AA manager Mike Guerrero’s shift.
Obviously, expect more of the same all summer at Wrigley Field. And more of the same approach from Pena – who, despite hopes of a big rebound from that .196 average last year, doesn’t plan to pay any attention to the shifts (which might be why he didn’t seem to be aware Monday before getting thrown out).
“The most harm is done when you allow things like that to all of a sudden influence your approach,” said Pena, who’s willing only to occasionally lay a bunt toward third to beat a shift if the situation calls for it – but doesn’t plan to lose any homers to right or doubles off the wall by altering his approach.
“The moment that I let that shift get in my mind, they’ve won,” he says.
The Cubs escaped a close call with speedy outfielder Fernando Perez and his surgically repaired left wrist when Perez was slow to get up after bending the wrist on a diving catch in the right-center gap.
“It scares you more than anything,” said Perez, who dislocated the wrist on a similar play in a spring training game two years ago. “I’ve become a bad tumbler since I had the surgery. I’m fine. I just took a tumble that I didn’t really enjoy very much, but I’ll be fine.”
Speaking of Perez, check out this video he helped some buddies put together when he was with Tampa Bay:
Kerry Wood’s spring debut in his second go-around with the Cubs did not go unnoticed by even the relatively sparse crowd at HoHoKam Park when he jogged in from the bullpen to start the sixth inning.
A few cheers turned into a head-turning roar by the time he reached the mound, and it rose again when he was announced over the p.a., with a smattering of fans offering a standing ovation.
“The response was great,” said Wood, who recorded two called strikeouts on nasty breaking balls but had a couple fastballs driven for extra-base hits in his two-run inning. “It was good to get out there and get the first one out of the way.”
As for whether the warm reception confirmed he made the right decision by returning on that discount contract, he said, “It was never really about trying to get a reception. It was more about just being home. It’s better than getting booed off the field when you come back.”