03/01/09 1:00 PM EST
Pena could return to lineup this week
Rays slugger progressing well in recovery from surgery
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The manager is optimistic that the slugger could join the club for Friday's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla.
"Really, we'd like to get him in by Pittsburgh, if possible," Maddon said. "If not, it will be a little farther than that, but it could be by the time we got to Pittsburgh after the off-day.
"He's feeling good. If he starts playing around the sixth or the seventh [of March], that's almost a full camp. Or it is, based on what he normally does."
Pena underwent minor surgery in Philadelphia on Jan. 8 to repair tears to his lower abdominal muscles.
"I've felt good all this time," Pena said. "But, obviously, there's a process [head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield] wants me to go through. And there's a series of exercises that are pretty intense, actually. I'm kind of excited about that, because, if anything, it helps me get into better shape. I've been very diligent doing all of my exercises. They're kind of rigorous. But I'm happy to do them."
Pena would not dispute the fact he's getting antsy about being out on the field.
"I want to be playing, of course," Pena said. "I see the guys playing, and I just want to be with them. But I know that will come soon enough. I've learned to take advantage of every single day. Use it to my advantage. Get all the workouts I can in, stretch, all kinds of stuff to even feel better. So I'm taking advantage of the time."
Statistically, Pena, 30, did not have as good a season offensively in 2008 as he did in '07, when he won American League Comeback Player of the Year honors after hitting 46 home runs and driving in 121 runs. But he served as the team leader of the AL champion Rays, won Gold Glove honors at first base and led the club with 31 home runs, 102 RBIs and 242 total bases, despite missing 20 games with a broken left index finger.
Thirty-nine of Pena's 102 RBIs and 18 of his 31 home runs either gave the Rays the lead or tied the game. His biggest homer came Sept. 10 at Boston when he hit a three-run shot in the 14th inning to give the Rays a 4-2 lead and their first series victory at Fenway Park since 1999.
Pena also set a Major League record by drawing nine bases-loaded walks.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.