Boras still has Pena's confidence

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA, Times Staff Writer
Published November 25, 2007

The amount the Rays will have to pay 1B Carlos Pena after his AL comeback player of the year performance remains a mystery.

Pena's friends were in an uproar last week, texting and calling his cell phone when they heard he placed ninth in the AL MVP voting. The power of his agent, the formidable Scott Boras, shrunk when a market miscalculation left him with little leverage as Alex Rodriguez worked on a deal with the Yankees. But Pena is still smiling.

Then Saturday, a Dominican sports Web site, impactodeportivo.com, reported that Pena rejected a three-year, $30-million deal.

When told of the report by phone Saturday evening, Pena was shocked and called the report "a straight lie."

"What? Three years, $30-million?" Pena said, turning to his wife to tell her the news and half laughing. "Wow. ... No, that's not true at all."

Pena, who still figures to make a significant raise from last year's $800,000 base salary, said his faith in Boras hasn't waned. Boras told the Times in September he was having "a $15-million season."

"Scott always keeps me posted," said Pena, who returned from a Hawaiian cruise last week. "He knows my concerns and my decisions. That's what I'm happy with. People say that these agents make players do things. But I know he's going to give me all the information I need to make a well-educated decision."

Pena would like a long-term deal to stay with the Rays, as would the team. Pena has two years of arbitration left before he can become a free agent after the 2009 season.

"I keep telling myself that this is a time to be excited," he added. "No matter which way it all comes out, it's a nice thing. ... I can honestly say for the first time in my career I feel like I'm really a part of something. I can talk about being a part of this team in the future and have the accountability that goes with it."

DUKES DEALINGS: How hot are the Nationals on inactive Rays OF Elijah Dukes? According to a story on the team's Web site, their chances of acquiring Dukes are "between a 6 and a 7" on a scale of 10.

Most interesting was a quote from Nats 1B Dmitri Young, who said he would serve as a mentor for Dukes after hearing good things about him from his brother, Rays OF Delmon Young.

"It's all about a second chance," Young said. "I was given a second chance. By the same token, Dukes deserves a second chance. From what my brother told me, he is a great kid. A change of scenery would do him good - get him to the National League. He would get a second chance, a clean slate."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Free-agent SS Cesar Izturis' .979 career fielding percentage is appealing to the Rays, who want to upgrade defensively. Izturis had a .991 fielding percentage in 30 games at SS after the Pirates acquired him in July. ... With Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and MLB president/chief operating officer Bob DuPuy on the guest list, the unveiling of the Rays stadium renditions Wednesday will undoubtedly be a big deal. ... Minor-league OF Jason Pridie, left off the 40-man last year, selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Twins then returned, was a surprise addition to this year's 40-man roster, but his numbers last season at Double A and Triple A (14 HRs, 66 RBIs, 26 steals) speak for themselves.

MISCELLANY: Tickets for the April 8 home opener go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday by phone (1-888-326-7297) or in person at the Tropicana Field box office, the Rays' Tampa office and all TicketMaster locations. ... In leading Team USA to first place in the World Cup in Taiwan, late-season callup Justin Ruggiano hit .333 (10-for-30) with a team-high three homers and eight RBIs, second on the team. Top prospect Evan Longoria hit .289 (11-for-38).