By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 18, 2007
In an attempt to provide some juice to a lineup that has produced the fewest runs in the major leagues this season, the Washington Nationals acquired outfielder Wily Mo Peña yesterday in a trade with the Boston Red Sox. The Nationals also gained cash considerations in return for a player to be named.
"I can't say that one guy is going to make all the difference," Nationals Manager Manny Acta said. Peña "is not going to play every day, but he can make that happen if he goes out and blows [the ball] away."
Peña has displayed his raw power since he was called up to the majors in 2002 as a 20-year-old with the Cincinnati Reds. This season, though, the right-handed batter Peña has struggled in the American League, mostly coming off the bench as a pinch hitter. He is batting .218 with five home runs and 17 RBI in 156 at-bats.
After last night's game, left-hander Matt Chico was optioned to Class AAA Columbus to make room for Peña.
The other player most affected by Peña's arrival is Ryan Church, who is batting .265 with 10 home runs, 35 doubles and 48 RBI. Acta, who will platoon Peña and the left-handed hitting Church in left field, admitted Church has not performed as hoped but said this move was not meant as a message.
"It just seemed to fit with what we had right now," Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said. "This isn't about Ryan. He wasn't traded. They both will have opportunities the rest of the year to earn a position on this team."
Bowden said the organization's scouts reported Peña still possessed 40-home-run power but needed to play more than he was in Boston. But for all his prodigious strength, he also frequently strikes out.
"He's a good kid who's going to work hard over here," said Acta, who managed Peña on the Dominican Republic team during the World Baseball Classic. "He has a lot of potential. We know he's going to strike out a lot. Power guys do that."
Acta also noted that Peña, when in the lineup, would bat in the same spot in the order as Church, typically No. 6.
Bowden said Peña is not the type of batter who will provide instant protection to the batters ahead of him in the lineup. "Strikeout players do not protect other players," he said. "That's not what they do."
Shortstop Felipe Lopez played with Peña in Cincinnati from 2003 to '05. "I don't know if he knows how strong he is," Lopez said. "He just goes up there and hits it a mile."