TEMPE, Ariz. — Veteran first baseman Carlos Pena followed his heart to Anaheim, signing a minor league deal with the Angels even though his position was firmly occupied by Albert Pujols, who is in the third year of a 10-year, $240-million deal.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Pena said in February. “You just have this feeling, this hunch, that this is the right place.”
It wasn’t. Pena, 35, hit .139 (five for 36) with 14 strikeouts in 20 spring games and was released Sunday along with veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba and infielder Chad Tracy. All three had opt-out clauses that allowed them to become free agents if they weren’t added to the 40-man roster by Sunday.
“It’s always a tough time of spring, with the conversations going from guys who are going to be really excited to conversations like we had today,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Chad, Carlos and Yorvit -- they’re pros, and they can still play. I’m sure they’re going to find a fit somewhere.”
Tracy, who hit .303 with a homer and seven RBIs in 17 games, and Torrealba, who hit .278 in 12 games, left early Sunday morning, but Pena, who has 285 career homers in 11 years, lingered long after his release to exchange hugs and handshakes with numerous players and coaches.
With Pujols, who missed the final two months of 2013 because of a left-foot injury, showing he is fully capable of playing first base on a regular basis, the smooth-fielding Pena knew he wouldn’t be as good a fit for the Angels.
“Though I really desire to be on the team, I totally understand the situation,” Pena said. “I’m very grateful that Albert is healthy. That’s what it comes down to.”
Pena, who split 2013 between Kansas City and Houston, has no intention of retiring.
“I feel too good,” he said. “That’s not even an option right now. I love the way it feels when you square up a ball, when you make a good play in the field. I’ll continue to stay ready and look forward to playing and being successful.”
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