Pena a stabilizing force for Cubs pitchers

Pena a stabilizing force for Cubs pitchers

Pena a stabilizing force for Cubs pitchers
CHICAGO -- Sometimes, it seems as if Carlos Pena is on the pitching mound more than the Cubs catcher. Pena never misses a chance to chat with the pitcher, but he has his reasons.

What does he say?

"It can range from a straight joke to loosen them up to get their attention away from the moment that seems to be taking over us," Pena said prior to a 5-4 win on Sunday. "Or, it could be some specific comment to calm them down, or pump them up or a straight, 'Hey, just take a walk around the mound. I've got the rosin bag. They'll get mad at me, not you.' Or, 'We've got your back.'"

The Cubs' first baseman said his teammates tease him about his frequent trips to the mound.

"Guys joke with me all the time about it," he said, laughing. "When it's time, I know it's good to take that extra seven seconds, 10 seconds just to get away. Sometimes, the game seems to go 100 miles an hour and you wish you could just step out. I try to give them a break."

It isn't just to say, "Hello," either.

"When I see the momentum shifting in the wrong direction for us, that's when I tell myself, 'You need to do something to switch it,' so I go in there and interrupt it so it won't flow their way," he said. "When I sense it, I go. Sometimes, I know the umpires don't like it, but I'm looking out for my team."

Has a pitcher ever told him to go away?

"I don't think it'll ever get to that point," he said. "I can tell, this guy likes it, this guy likes the break. I try to learn the pitchers before I do it.

"When I believe it's a must for the team, I do it, regardless of what the pitcher may say," he said. "I think I'm pretty good at sensing it."

For example, he'll often tell Carlos Marmol to simply "go take a walk" so he has a chance to regroup.

What about Matt Garza? He seems pretty amped and Pena has known him the longest from their days together with the Rays.

"It goes from, 'I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine,' to 'OK, just look at me in the eyes and slow down,'" Pena said.

Cubs manager Mike Quade approves of the conversations.

"[Pena] doesn't miss an opportunity to try and settle somebody down and get involved," Quade said. "Sometimes a guy gets the ball back and it's nice to have somebody next to you going, 'Hey, it's going to be all right.'"