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Notes: Pena keeps smiling
08/25/2004 11:25 PM ET
ANAHEIM -- These are difficult times for the Royals, who went into Wednesday's game against the Anaheim Angels in last place in the American League Central, 25 games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins and 35 games below .500.

Royals manager Tony Pena has used a club-record 55 players this season, four shy of the Major League mark of 59. Only nine players who were on the Opening Day roster were in uniform on Wednesday.

First baseman Mike Sweeney was merely the latest of the Royals' top players to land on the disabled list when he was placed there Tuesday because of a recurring disk problem.

A year after keeping the Royals in contention until the end of the season and earning AL Manager of the Year honors, Pena copes by reminding himself of the joys of coming to a Major League ballpark each day. He deals with the adversity of a losing season by smiling as often as he can.

"Life is too short," he said. "You know you're alive right now. Anything can happen a half-hour or an hour from now. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. It's destiny.

"I try to have fun with my players. Most of the time when you have young players they have a tendency to be too tight. You have to loosen them up. It's tough when you play tight. I try to make sure that when they walk through the clubhouse door they feel they can be comfortable.

"You have to play with the same intensity and energy every day (in the Major Leagues). The only way to do it is to play loose and have fun."

Pena said he enjoys the simple act of hitting fungoes during batting practice.

"Playing with my boys," he called it. "I enjoy every day at the ballpark."

Veterans soldier on: The infectious enthusiasm of the younger Royals, many of whom have made their Major League debuts this season, causes Pena to smile and laugh at times. But he sometimes worries about many of his veteran players.

"It's tough for the veterans because veterans want to win and be competitive," Pena said. "Whenever you go through a season like we're going through, it's tough for the veterans. But we try to focus on the things we need to focus on."

Wilton Guerrero is one veteran Pena does not worry about, however.

"The most important thing to know about him is that he does his work every day," Pena said. "He's a pro. He tries to show everybody why he's here. Even if he isn't playing, he just always stays ready."

Pickering makes mark: It turns out there was still more to designated hitter Calvin Pickering's sensational debut with the Royals on Sunday against the Texas Rangers. His grand slam in his first at-bat marked the first time since 1969 that a player had hit a slam in his debut at-bat for his club.

More on Pickering: With 11 RBIs in his first three games with the Royals, Pickering fell just short of the club record for the most runs knocked in over a three-game span. Raul Ibanez had 13 RBIs during a three-game stretch in July 2002.

Cerda puts them to sleep: Reliever Jaime Cerda is baseball's best at stranding runners, having left 37 of 42 inherited runners on base. Cerda had a 1-2 record with a 2.58 ERA going into Wednesday's game against Anaheim. He retired the only batter he faced Tuesday, stranding two more runners.

Royals pitchers stranded 16 baserunners during Tuesday's 7-5 loss to the Angels, the most since they left 18 on base in a Sept. 13, 1997 game at Anaheim.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.