KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Carlos Pena wasn’t signed by the Houston Astros because of his .197 batting average or 19 homers last year.
The former Rays first baseman was brought in to be a team leader, the kind he became for Tampa Bay in 2007 when he hit 46 homers for a perennially downtrodden club. One year later, Pena hit 31 home runs to lead the Rays to their only World Series.
“When you look at his career, you see first that he is a true professional and a real leader,” first-year Astros manager Bo Porter said. “When you have a guy like (Pena) on your ballclub, it only makes things better. He can lead in a lot of ways.”
Pena, who signed a $2.9 million, one-year contract with the Astros this off-season, hit his first home run for Houston on Saturday in a 6-5 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Astros starter Dallas Keuchel pitched two scoreless innings, and Philip Humber allowed one run in three innings. J.D. Martinez added a homer and two hits for the Astros.
Kris Medlen, slated to start on Opening Day for the Braves, went three innings in his second start of the spring and allowed one run. Freddie Freeman hit his second homer and Joey Terdoslavich went 4 for 4 to raise his average to .643.
Freeman’s homer was the only run Humber gave up. Humber is expected to be in Houston’s starting rotation when April rolls around,.
Medlen, who went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA for the Braves last season, allowed only Pena’s home run and had a special cheering section in the crowd. His first child, Max Michael, less than a month old, was at the park to watch his dad pitch for the first time.
“I feel fine,” Medlen said. “It’s kind of all downhill from here.”
Medlen has been experimenting with a knuckleball and threw one in the game but it was a bit high. Just a work in progress, he said.
NOTES: LHP Mike Minor will make his second start when the Braves host the Tigers on Sunday. Minor is scheduled to go three innings. ... Former Braves OFs Ralph Garr and Brian Jordan will join the club as guest instructors starting on Sunday.