Pena's Transition Goes Smoothly

Former shortstop taking to the mound

SAN FRANCISCO—On the rare occasion when a major league position player tries to restart his career on the mound, the effort usually involves a knuckleball and a prayer.

Tony Pena Jr. doesn't throw a knuckleball. And he's got more than a prayer.
After signing with the Giants over the winter, Pena established himself as a strike-thrower this spring and continued to exceed expectations at Double-A Richmond. He was 3-0, 1.09 through his first 15 appearances and had allowed 15 hits and five walks with 21 strikeouts in 25 innings. He's been almost untouchable to righthanded hitters, who had a .115 average against him.

Pretty good for a 29-year-old former Opening Day shortstop.

"We were hoping he could come in and have a feel for throwing strikes and he's exceptional at that already," Giants pitching coordinator Bert Bradley said. "He shows flashes of sitting at 90-91 (mph) from a three-quarter slot. He's got three quality pitches, throws his slider for strikes and the fastball has movement. He's pretty effective. He knows how to get the ball down. And he obviously fields his position. That was never an issue."

Pena was getting 2.71 ground ball outs for every fly ball out while sharing the closer role with Rafael Cova. Of course, they were simply called the Braves the last time Pena played for Richmond. He came up through Atlanta's system playing a smooth shortstop before the Royals acquired him.

It's not impossible to envision Pena as a two-way big leaguer, as Brooks Kieschnick was with the Brewers. Bradley said Pena has been used as a pinch hitter a few times at Richmond. And back in mid-May, Pena's name came up in manager Bruce Bochy's office for a possible promotion to the big leagues.

The Giants placed shortstop Edgar Renteria on the disabled list, and they also needed to add a fresh bullpen arm. They could've killed two birds with one Pena.

But it was determined that Pena needs more minor league innings. He'll probably get them in Triple-A Fresno soon, and Bradley sees a major league arm in the future.


• Righthander Brian Anderson threw two scoreless innings for high Class A San Jose, his first competition since 2007. Anderson, 26, was trying to reestablish himself as a top relief prospect after undergoing elbow reconstruction surgery.

• Fresno got off to its best start as a Giants affiliate. The Grizzlies led the Pacific Coast League with a 27-12 record after sweeping four games at Oklahoma City.