New approach fits Wily Mo Pena

After spending much of the past two seasons out of professional baseball, playing in relative obscurity in the Independent League, Wily Mo Pena is poised to make a return to the big leagues with San Diego.

The veteran of 560 major-league games over seven seasons with Washington, Boston and Cincinnati inked with the Padres organization last month after a solid 2010 with Bridgeport.

All Wily Mo Pena has done since his return to the professional ranks with Portland is hit. Playing outfield and first base for the Beavers, he's sporting a robust .337 batting average with five homers and 23 RBIs in 28 games. His .526 slugging percentage and .939 OPS show just how dominant he's been.

Pena chalks it up to a simple change in his approach while in the batter's box.

"When I was in the majors I was just trying to hit a lot of home runs," said Pena, who is still just 28 years old. "Now I'm down here learning how to hit for average. The last two seasons I've been doing that when I went back to the Dominican (Republic) to play winter ball. My mind is on hitting .300-plus. I already know I have power, but want to show I can hit for average too."

Pena racked up a pair of four-hit games over the past week, as the Beavers wrapped up a road trip to Iowa and Omaha.

Surprisingly, he says his experience in unaffiliated ball enabled him to hit the ground running in the Pacific Coast League.

"I was surprised to see a lot of players with big-league time," Pena said. "Ten years, eight years – a lot of pitchers and position players had great experience. It's a good league, it's for real. I put my head to work and kept doing it until God had another plan for me.

"It was the same baseball when I came out here – you just go out there and play hard. I learned a lot of stuff at Bridgeport and now I'm happy to be back on a professional team."

As the 2010 season winds down in Portland, Padres management will have to take notice of Pena's impressive three-week run. However, currently there are not many at-bats to go around at the big-league level. The trade for Ryan Ludwick added to a crowded outfield, and Adrian Gonzalez is well-entrenched at first.

Although a trip back to the bigs would be ideal, Pena is set on finishing strong in Triple-A.

"I have had some good games but it's not up to me," he said. "I'm playing my game. I'm not a coach, so I'm just here to help the team win. I'm working hard and that's all paying off. They've put me in the line up and told me I'm playing every day. I'm enjoying my time here with a great group of guys. My mind is here and I belong here so far."

Pena demonstrates the maturity of a 28-year old ready to shed his old image and create a new identity in the professional ranks.

"Everything that's in the past is in the past," he said. "From now on I have another label; this is a new beginning."


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