February 21, 2013 in Sports

Pena good fit at DH as Astros join A.L.

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Carlos Pena may become the first regular designated hitter of the Houston Astros.

It would take some getting used to, both for the team and the player.

“I take so much pride in my glove,” Pena said Wednesday. “I think that’s something people can overlook. I always tell myself no one takes groundballs the way I do at first base; no one has the same type of mentality.”

The Astros, moving to the American League this year, have had a DH in only a handful of interleague and postseason games, and Pena has been a DH for only 45 games in a 12-year career. There is a good chance he will make it 46 in the season opener against the Texas Rangers on April 2. With 191 home runs over the last six seasons, the left-handed hitter fits the description of what Houston is looking for in a DH.

“I think the DH is a luxury,” manager Bo Porter said. “When Jeff (general manager Luhnow) and I talked about a DH, we talked about a player who could actually go in and play a position. That’s a reason we targeted Carlos Pena – No. 1, he has experience as a DH. There’s a craft to it. Everybody can’t do it. What you don’t want is for a guy to just go up and pinch hit four times.”

At age 34 and coming off a rough year with the Tampa Bay Rays in which he hit .197 and struck out 182 times, Pena might seem like an odd fit in the clubhouse of the young, low-budget Astros. But this is pretty close to home on several levels.

“This is my kind of environment,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of young kids who don’t take things for granted. I love to see that. When everything is set in your life, there is a tendency to take it for granted. I don’t ever want to feel like I’ve got it; I want to feel every single day like: ‘Thank you, God, for this uni today.’ ”

Clearing the bases

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda pleaded no contest to driving under the influence. Pineda was arrested and charged with DUI in Tampa on Aug. 20 last year. … All-Star second baseman Carlos Baerga and former general manager John Hart are the new members of the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame. … Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost had surgery to remove his gall bladder on Tuesday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. … For the first time in his career, A.J. Burnett is getting the call on opening day. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has named the veteran right-hander the team’s starter when the Pirates begin the 2013 season at home on April 1 against the Cubs.

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