Sunday, August 7, 2011
#374) ALEJANDRO PEÑA
Alejandro Peña was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers along with outfielder, Mike Marshall to the New York Mets in exchange for Juan Samuel on December 20, 1989. The trade was part of the recasting of the bullpen for the 1990 season. New York had also brought in former Cincinnati Reds' left-handed reliever, John Franco.
"Every relief pitcher likes to save games," said Peña on his arrival. "I'd like to close games, too. My pride is in saving games." Alejandro made his Mets debut on April 9, 1990 at Shea Stadium. He entered in the eighth inning of the Opening Day contest with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, Peña allowed four hits and surrendered three runs without even recording a single out. His poor start in New York continued for him through late June. "I was pitiful," recalls Alejandro. "Everybody hit me hard." The veteran right-hander had allowed 17 earned runs in his first 30-2/3 innings for a 4.99 ERA. "I had a meeting with the Mets halfway through the season." said Peña. "Because they didn't believe in me, they didn't use me. I'd go ten days with one chance. You can't do that. I told them I had to pitch more to be effective. And I think I showed them. There's life left in this arm." Alejandro finished the season with a 3-3 record, five saves, and a lowered 3.20 ERA.
After deliberation the team chose to exercise his contract's option and return Peña for the 1991 campaign. "I don't blame them for having doubts then," Alejandro said during spring training. "I don't blame them for having doubts now." The reliever was always quiet among teammates in the clubhouse. Often sitting as if hypnotized. "He's certainly his own man, one who walks his own path," said Ron Darling. "It always takes a while to figure out a guy who is new to the team. A lot of people still don't have him figured out." Peña became the effective right-handed solution for the Mets bullpen they had hoped for. He was credited with six consecutive victories in relief, and found himself with a fine 6-1 record, four saves and 2.71 ERA on August 26th. It was days later that the Mets traded Alejandro to the pennant-chasing Atlanta Braves in exchange for Tony Castillo and Joe Roa. New York was in Atlanta for a series on August 28th when Peña was first informed of the deal. He had to literally walk across the field to join his teammates in the other dugout. The Dominican hurler ended the season well by becoming the Braves closer. Alejandro was part of a three-pitcher combined no-hitter on September 11th and pitched for Atlanta in the 1991 World Series.
"I never forget what Alejandro Peña once told me," said Braves pitching coach, Leo Mazzone in 1998. "He told me: 'How hard is it to go out there and get three outs?' I love that attitude. Every young reliever that goes through here I tell that to. It's a mental thing. I like pitchers who just take the ball and go out there and get three outs. Alejandro didn't care about anything else."
I created Alejandro Peña's card from an autographed index card given to me by my good friend, Jessie on August 7, 2011.