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Cubs’ Carlos Pena ends dreary April in bench role

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



PHOENIX — Between schedule adjustments and the way Wrigley Field is held hostage by weather conditions, Carlos Pena isn’t the first big free-agent hitter to struggle in the early part of his first season with the Cubs.

But that didn’t make it any easier for the $10 million slugger to sit on the bench the last two days of the month, assuring the first homerless April of his big-league career.

Manager Mike Quade said he labored over the decision
before giving Pena a two-day mental breather that also provided a lineup spot for hot-swinging Jeff Baker.

Pena, who came in late for Baker defensively Friday and Saturday, will be back in the lineup today for the finale in Arizona, Quade said.

Meanwhile, Pena tries to put one of his roughest Aprils behind him and ‘‘humbly’’ accept the brief bench stretch as he works on breaking from a .159 slump that includes more than twice as many strikeouts (23) as hits (10) and just five RBI. It also includes a thumb injury that plagued him much of the month.

‘‘I’m not a stranger to adversity or tough times. I’ve always had to overcome difficulty to achieve any type of success,’’ said Pena, who signed a one-year contract with the Cubs after a .196, 28-homer season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Beyond the thumb problems, Chicago weather may have
robbed him of as many as three home runs.

‘‘Mentally, it might have been at least a challenge,’’ he said. ‘‘But one thing for sure is at the end of the day I know that I’m a piece of the puzzle. And that’s the way I look at it. You’re never going to see a long face from me. I’m just going to keep on pressing forward, and anywhere I can help, I will.

‘‘The good thing is I believe I can be a huge contributor.’’

Quade said Pena’s in no danger of losing his job or even a platoon share of his starting job.

‘‘Carlos is signed here to be the first baseman,’’ Quade said. ‘‘Baker is going to be a guy that plays all over the field. And we’re going to need Carlos to contribute. And if Baker plays some third, some
second, some outfield, some first, and if he stays doing what he’s doing, we’re going to find a way to keep him in the lineup a lot.’’

Notes

Injured pitchers Randy Wells (forearm) and Andrew Cashner (shoulder) fared well enough in flat-ground throwing sessions
Saturday that the Cubs have decided against leaving them behind at the team’s Arizona rehab facility and will keep them with the team as they head to Los Angeles tonight.

† Right-handed reliever Angel Guzman, who’s rehabbing from serious shoulder surgery 13 months ago, threw another inning in a simulated game Saturday and remains optimistic he’ll
make his big-league return this season. Since experiencing
soreness two weeks ago, he
said he has felt much stronger recently and expects to start a minor-league rehab assignment at Class A Daytona by the end of May.



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