08/01/2002 11:50 pm ET
Peña happy to be back
Opening day first baseman greeted warmly
By Kent Schacht / MLB.com
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Carlos Peña returned to Oakland for the first time since he was sent down by the A's in May, and was received warmly by the fans, media and former teammates.
Peña, who was Oakland's Opening Day first baseman, was expected to man the position for the A's for years to come as Jason Giambi's replacement. But after winning AL Rookie of the Month honors in April, Peña struggled at the plate in May, hitting .108 and was demoted to Triple-A Sacramento.
He was never called back up to the big league club and was traded to the Tigers July 5 in the three-team trade that sent Jeff Weaver to New York and Ted Lilly to Oakland.
Surrounding by a throng of media before batting practice, Peña said he's enjoying his situation in Detroit, and has no hard feelings about being traded.
"It was a good thing for me," said Peña. "I'm getting a chance to play everyday up here with the big league ballclub.
"Things like that happen, but these situations challenge you to be a better man."
Peña said that he returns to Oakland "more mature," and smarter about the way the game works. "I understand now that baseball is a big business," he said. "Teams want to win. We are all just pieces of a puzzle, and sometimes you have to make moves."
The left-handed first baseman said he sees much promise with his new club. "Teams that are now contenders were once like us," he said. "The way we've been playing since I've been here has really impressed me."
After Peña left Oakland, there were murmurs that part of the reason for moving him resulted from him being difficult to coach. Peña said he was surprised at that sentiment. "That's the first time I've heard that about myself," he said. "I was disappointed to hear a negative thing like that."
A's manager Art Howe didn't want to talk about Peña's return in his pregame press gathering and said he hasn't been following his former player's progress in Detroit.
It was obvious though that many Oakland fans have been keeping an eye on him. The "Carlos Peña Fan Club" sign was strung up in right field an hour before first pitch. In addition, a large group cheered and screamed his name when he ran out of the tunnel for batting practice, causing Peña to catch a heavy load of good-natured ribbing from his Detroit teammates.
Peña said he planned to make the trip to the house he shared with former teammates Mark Mulder and Eric Chavez to retrieve some personal belongings, but that his teammates instead carted his stuff to the ballpark for him.
He joked that the representation of him as a slob in an episode of ESPN's "The Life" was unfair. In the episode, Mulder shows the cameras Peña's former room, which was piled high with Peña's possessions.
"They turned the room into storage! That wasn't just my stuff," he said.
Kent Schacht is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.