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Notes: Pena encouraged by results

Notes: Pena encouraged by results

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Carlos Pena's batting average is on the rise.

In the past 10 games, the Rays first baseman is 12-for-31 (.387), which has raised his average from .196 to .268.

From the beginning of Spring Training, Rays manager Joe Maddon talked about the importance of Pena hitting to the opposite field rather than pulling the ball. Thus, Pena has concentrated on hitting the ball up the middle and to the opposite field with nice results.

Over the weekend against Toronto, Pena homered in the games on Saturday and Sunday. Both home runs went to the middle part of the field.

"Every hitter will tell you that going the other way is a big plus," Pena said. "It's something if you want to be successful you're going to try to master it."

Pena has been working a lot with hitting coach Steve Henderson on using the whole field, but says he's hardly perfected the practice.

"It's an ongoing process," Pena said. "I can get better every day. If you can master [hitting the other way] it makes you a better hitter immediately."

Walking wounded : Infielder Greg Norton has been out since March 31 after having surgery to his right knee, while third baseman Akinori Iwamura has been on the shelf since April 24 with a right oblique strain. Both are progressing nicely.

"Norty is getting closer," Maddon said. "That slide about a week ago kind of made the knee a little sore. There's nothing necessarily bad or wrong with it, except it got sore on him. So we just backed him off. It's going to be a little bit longer but not too much longer."

Norton will work out at the Minor League complex this week, but won't be activated while the team is in Orlando.

Meanwhile, Iwamura took 10 live swings Tuesday, and that number will be tripled Wednesday.

"He's been running, fielding, throwing," Maddon said. "He's doing really well, actually. [Team trainer Ron Porterfield] told me that he felt by next Tuesday we should know when to pop him into a game. And it could be the next Tuesday or Wednesday."

Once it's determined as the right time to put Iwamura into a game, he will be sent to one of the Rays' Minor League affiliates to get acclimated again to full-time play.

Gomes fender bender: Like several of his teammates, Jonny Gomes made the trek to Orlando on Tuesday in his own car. The Rays slugger left his home in St. Petersburg around 10 a.m. driving his black Chrysler 300. About an hour later, Gomes said, a truck and a car both changed lanes, resulting in an accident in which he was involved.

"We must have all had a blind spot," Gomes said.

Gomes survived the accident without a scratch, but he had to wait around approximately a half an hour for the traffic report to get finished. And his car is scratched up along the passenger side from the accident.

"So yeah, that's the start of a good trip," Gomes said.

According to Elias: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Pena's home run Sunday made him the first player in Rays history to break up a no-hit bid with a home run in the seventh inning or later. It's happened two other times in the Major Leagues this season. On May 5, Seattle's Ben Broussard's home run with one out in the eighth spoiled Chien-Ming Wang's no-hit bid for the Yankees; and Monday night the Braves' Brian McCann ended the Nationals' Jason Bergmann's no-hit bid with a leadoff home run in the eighth.

A look at the numbers: The Rays' 44 home runs are their most ever after 37 games, and rank second in the American League behind the Rangers' 48. ... The Rays have also surrendered 48 home runs, one more than Texas (47) -- only the Blue Jays have allowed more in the Major Leagues (53). ... Since April 25, the Rays have hit at a .231 clip, dropping the team mark from .274 to a season-low .251. ... The Rays averaged 5.4 runs per game through the first 20 games and 3.1 over the last 17 while batting a league low (.169) with runners in scoring position over that period.

Up next: The Rays will play the second game of their three-game series against the Rangers Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista. Left-hander Casey Fossum will start for the Rays and will be opposed by Vicente Padilla.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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