Cubs pull Pena off waivers after Yanks' claim
Interim GM Bush assures first baseman he's valued on North Side
The Cubs told Carlos Pena on Wednesday they pulled him off waivers after the Yankees claimed the first baseman.
Cubs interim general manager Randy Bush, who has taken over the GM duties following the dismissal of Jim Hendry, spoke to Pena before the team's 3-2 win over the Braves.
"The conversation was to reassure me how much they think of me," Pena said. "I made sure I told him likewise and that I appreciate being here and being a Cub, and how much pride I take in wearing the uniform.
"Regardless of what I was hearing or what people were talking about, I never lost sight that today I'm wearing this uniform and this is my whole entire eternity right here."
The Yankees put in a waiver claim on Pena, as first reported by SI's Jon Heyman. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman couldn't speak publicly to the waiver process but said on the field at Yankee Stadium that an August trade involving his team still seems unlikely.
"I said I think it'd be very unlikely we made a trade," Cashman said. "I'd be surprised if we wound up doing it. ... I'm going to continue to scan everything, but no, I'm not optimistic of doing anything. I think this is most likely what we've got."
Cashman pointed out that he has imported two players off waivers this month, however -- pitchers Raul Valdes and Aaron Laffey.
Pena has $5 million of his total $10 million contract deferred until January 2012. If the first baseman was dealt, the Cubs would pay a pro-rated portion of the contract, which means they would be obligated for the $5 million.
Pena had heard the rumors, although not directly.
"I try to stay oblivious to all that," he said. "It's almost impossible because of how advanced we are with the media, computers, the Internet. Even if I'm not ... connected to the Internet, my friends are, my family is, my brothers may be, and they may say something."
Pena, 33, who signed a one-year deal last December, is batting .223 with 23 homers and 67 RBIs this season and has reached the 20-homer mark for the fifth straight year.
He didn't take the waiver process as anything but a procedural move.
"I certainly wasn't the only one going through waivers," Pena said. "It was flattering to see the interest. It was more flattering to see how the Cubs pulled back and retained me. If anything, I tried to look at those positives."
Pena also complimented Bush for the professional way he gave the first baseman the news.
"It's weird to go through this type of process, but at the end of the day, I have to keep it simple," Pena said. "Get here, put the uniform on, grab a bat, a glove and go play baseball and leave it at that, because that's all I can control."
Pena could be back with the Cubs next year. The team isn't set at first base, even though Bryan LaHair, 28, is on a roll, batting .335 with 34 home runs and 100 RBIs at Triple-A Iowa. LaHair, who went 4-for-5 on Tuesday with four doubles and five RBIs, also has 37 doubles, a .411 on-base percentage and 103 strikeouts. He is expected to be called up in September and get a chance to prove himself at the big league level.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryanhoch. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.