Rays to pad infield depth with Pena

Devil Rays are close to signing first baseman Carlos Pena to a minor-league deal.

By Marc Topkin
Published January 24, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Seeking to increase depth with their infield plans unsettled, the Devil Rays are close to signing first baseman Carlos Pena to a minor-league deal.

Under some alignments, the Rays could end up with Ty Wigginton and Greg Norton splitting time at first base. But if they need Wigginton at second or third base, there could be an opportunity for Pena and/or Hee-Seop Choi, who also signed a minor-league deal.

Pena, 28, was a first-round pick by Texas in the 1998 draft but was traded twice before establishing himself with the Tigers in 2002. He played regularly for parts of four seasons, hitting .241 with a team-high 27 homers and 82 RBIs in 2004. He was the opening day first baseman in 2005 but was sent to Triple A on May 31, didn't return until mid August and was released during spring training 2006.

He bounced through the Yankees and Red Sox organizations last season, playing 18 major-league games for Boston, hitting .273 with one homer and three RBIs.

The Rays have also signed veteran catcher Raul Casanova, 34, to a minor-league deal. Casanova has played in 338 major-league games over parts of seven seasons, but only six, with the 2005 White Sox, in the past four.

OHKA JOINS JAYS: Right-hander Tomo Ohka, coming off an injury-plagued season, and the Blue Jays reached a preliminary agreement on a one-year, $1.5-million contract. General manager J.P. Ricciardi said the deal was pending a physical.

A'S-REDS TRADE: Oakland traded right-hander Kirk Saarloos to Cincinnati, giving him a chance to win a spot at the back of the rotation. The A's got minor-league reliever David Shafer. Each team also received a player to be named.

ALL-STAR GAME: Baseball has set Jan. 31 as the date to announce Yankee Stadium as site of the 2008 game. The stadium is scheduled to close after that season.

ANGELS: Infielder Dallas McPherson had surgery to remove a herniated disc in his lower back and is expected to be sidelined for most, if not all, of the upcoming season.

METS: First baseman Carlos Delgado could miss a few games at the start of the regular season for the birth of his first child.

PHILLIES: Right-hander Antonio Alfonseca agreed to a one-year contract for the major-league minimum of $380,000.

WHITE SOX: Outfielder Scott Podsednik will be sidelined at least six weeks after groin surgery. Also, Darin Erstad is expected to sign a free-agent contract after passing a physical. The Rays had expressed interest in the long-time Angel.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or 727 893-8801.