Pena pulling for former batterymate Cueto in WS

Reds catcher friends with several Royals players, but none closer than former Cincinnati starter

Pena pulling for former batterymate Cueto in WS

CINCINNATI -- Brayan Pena is a baseball fan even when not playing and would be watching the World Series anyway -- regardless of which teams were in it. But the catcher will be among the many Reds pulling for former teammate and Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto.

The Royals, American League champions for the second-straight year, are facing the Mets in the best-of-seven series. Pena, a member of the Royals from 2009-12, has several friends on the team, but none closer than his former Reds batterymate Cueto.

"Of course, I'm excited to see my guys on the biggest stage," Pena said on Tuesday. "You want to watch and see how they're doing in what is the Super Bowl of baseball."

Cueto was traded from Cincinnati to Kansas City for pitching prospects Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed on July 26. When the Royals won the AL Division Series over the Astros behind Cueto's brilliant pitching in the decisive Game 5, Cueto wanted to include Pena in the celebration postgame.

Cueto on his dazzling pitching

"Cueto FaceTimed me from the field," Pena said. "He was very excited, and he wanted to share that excitement with me. I appreciated it, and it meant a lot to me."

Cueto was slated to start in Game 2 and a possible Game 6 vs. the Mets in the World Series.

"He didn't pitch that well vs. Toronto [in the AL Championship Series], but he'll be ready," Pena said. "With Johnny, you can never bring him down. He always picks it up and gives you his best. Hopefully, he can have a great outing and go from there."

When Pena was with the Royals, he remembered their current core players like Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and others when they were coming up through the Minors. He's also close friends with fellow Cuban and slugger Kendrys Morales.

"I saw those guys coming up," Pena said. "You have to give credit to [Royals general manager] Dayton Moore and the front office. They believed in those guys and didn't go out and spend a lot of money. It really paid off."

Pena, who will be a free agent after two seasons with the Reds, saw traits from the young team in Cincinnati this year that he felt were similar to his time with the Royals. Cincinnati lost 98 games in 2015, and the Royals clubs Pena played for lost 90 or more games for four straight seasons before contending.

"You have to learn how to compete from the bottom," Pena said. "Kansas City struggled, but it was a learning process. The same group of guys believed in themselves, stuck together, and look where they are today."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.