The unspoken question lurked around Tampa Bay area water coolers, backyard barbecues and Tropicana Field. Which Carlos Pena would step up to the plate for the Tampa Bay Rays on opening day against the New York Yankees? Would it be the power-hitting fan favorite or the strikeout king whose fanning helps keep the Trop at a nice, cool 72 degrees?
That question was answered emphatically with two swings and two rather audible CRACKS of bat-on-ball action.
“This is great,” said Pena, after driving in 5 runs on the day. “I am so grateful for a day like today. I’m happy to get the win, but to get it in such a way is something that I’ll never forget.”
I am slightly vindicated for writing this on the Pena homeruns vs. strikeouts dichotomy, hereinafter referred to as power vs. pfft… After getting a louder ovation than Evan Longoria—what?!—the returning fan fave cranked a two-out grand slam in his first plate appearance back in a Rays uniform—the first GS C.C. Sabathia has ever yielded to a lefty.
I think Carlos had read my blog. I don't think he liked it; that 3-2 pitch was probably supposed to be my head. The Rays went up 4-0 in the opening frame and I felt like a schmuck.
Clearly hitting wasn't going to be a problem that carried over from spring training.