Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pena still smiling, still leading in home runs

It was team photo day Saturday for the Rays, which meant first baseman Carlos Pena was at the Trop sporting two pins sticking out of his bandaged left hand and, as always, a smile.

Pena still leads the American League in home runs with 39, even though he hasn't played since breaking the middle and index fingers of his left hand on Sept. 7 when he was struck by a CC Sabathia 95 mph fastball during the first game of a doubleheader.

Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira was second with 33 homers at the time of Pena's season-ending injury. Teixeira hit two homers in the night cap of the Yankees sweep, but is homerless since.

At this pace, Pena might just hold on to the lead and win his first home run crown. If so, he will become the first to lead the league in home runs despite missing the final 25 games of the season.

Dick Allen in 1974 and Jimmie Foxx in 1939 won home run titles after missing the final 20 games. Allen hit 32 in '74 and Foxx hit 35 in '39.

Pena, true to form, said he is not rooting against Teixeira or Jason Bay (third with 34), because he does not wish ill on anyone.

But, Pena added, his friends and family are keeping him update on the race.

Should Pena somehow hold on to the lead, it would cap a three-year run that began with the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award after his 46-home run, 121-RBI year in 2007, and the AL Gold Glove after he committed just two errors in 1,099 total chances for the AL champs in 2008.

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