When Brayan Pena says with a smile, “I am so proud to be an American,” he means it from the depths of his being. To say becoming an American citizen caused pain to him and his family is a massive understatement.
Pena was 16 and playing for the Cuban Junior team in Venezuela in 1998 when he decided to defect because he wanted to pursue his dream of playing professional baseball in the United States.
“It was the right decision, but I was only 16 and it was very hard for me,” said the 32-year-old catcher who signed a two-year contract this winter to play for his beloved Cincinnati Reds.
“I had to separate myself from my family, my friends, my country, my land,” he said. “I was pursuing my dream, to be a big-league player and help my family.”
It didn’t help his family at the time. The Cuban government immediately took away the jobs of both his father and his mother.
But Pena has six years in the majors now and signed a two-year deal with the Reds, ostensibily to be Devin Mesoraco’s backup. Pena played his first exhibition game of the spring Saturday and had a double in his first at-bat and was hit by a pitch in his second while wearing uniform No. 29, which previously belonged to the traded Ryan Hanigan.
Slowing Sean: Sean Marshall spent two separate periods on the disabled list last year, first with shoulder tendinitis and then with a sprained left shoulder and made only 16 bullpen appearances.
He didn’t undergo surgery but spent all winter building up his shoulder and came to camp hoping all was well.
It isn’t. Marshall hasn’t appeared in a game and probably won’t for another week.
“We’re slowing him down because he is a little stiff,” said manager Bryan Price. “We want to be on the front end of this thing, so we’ll back him off. He doesn’t need a full spring training to be ready for Opening Day. He did all his off-season throwing and we hope it will pay dividends by slowing him down this spring to make sure he is completely strong and pain-free and he doesn’t have any setbacks.”
Taking advantage: With a wet field, Price removed all the regulars from Saturday’s lineup and shortstop Ramon Santiago, replacing Zack Cozart, took advantage.
Santiago singled home the Reds first run in the second inning, stole second, moved to third on a ground ball and scored on a wild pitch.
The 34-year-old Dominican is an experienced utility infielder after serving the Detroit Tigers in that capacity for the last eight seasons. He was a late winter free agent signee by the Reds
Wang watch: It was not a good day for Chien-Ming Wang, twice a 19-game winner for the New York Yankees, trying to make a comeback after a couple of shoulder surgeries. In two innings Saturday he gave up one run and five hits.
“I am just very happy to be in a major-league camp, trying for a comeback,” said Wang.
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