Pena showing survival skills behind plate

Pena showing survival skills behind plate

Pena showing survival skills behind plate
KANSAS CITY -- Brayan Pena has been a survivor, since the day in 2000 he defected from Cuba while on a baseball trip in Venezuela. Now he's survived again, staying on the Royals' roster as the backup catcher to Salvador Perez while Humberto Quintero was cut loose on Wednesday.

This is Pena's fourth year with the Royals and he's outlasted a variety of catchers, including Miguel Olivo, John Buck, Jason Kendall, Lucas May, Matt Treanor, Manny Pina and several other aspirants in Spring Training camp.

There's always competition.

"No lead is safe here," is the way Pena put it.

When Perez returned to the roster last Friday, the Royals were left with three catchers, one more than the norm. As Perez showed himself to be healthy in the last few days, the need for three catchers was over and Quintero was designated for assignment. Pena found out as he arrived in the clubhouse on Wednesday morning before the series finale against Tampa Bay.

"I came early and Billy Butler was the one who gave me the news," Pena said.

"I never take anything for granted. I just go out there and do my job. I'm very thankful. ... Like I always say, I wish I could retire as a Royal. That's why I try to do my best and play my hardest."

Pena is a strong switch-hitter and he's improved markedly behind the plate in recent seasons. He credits pitchers Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar, along with former catcher and now part-time coach Kendall, with helping his game-calling acumen. For his defensive improvement, Pena credits former catching coach John Gibbons and current coach Chino Cadahia.

"If somebody is always pointing at you and saying, 'You've got to get better with your defense,' you've got to do something, because, if not, I might be [at home] in Miami," Pena said.

"I need to improve my game, I need to keep working on my defense because this is a very tough position. In this position, today you can be healthy and then tomorrow something can happen right away."

That was evident in Spring Training when both Manny Pina and Perez were lost to knee surgery within weeks.

Pena, 30, is still surviving.

"Right now, I'm very pleased, but I wish Quintero nothing but the very best, because he was a great teammate and we had a lot of fun together," Pena said. "And you never know. No lead is safe, like we always say."