05/16/2002 7:28 pm ET
Pena's attitude positive after defeat
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tony Pena may be 0-2 as a Major League manager, but that's not going to wipe the happy-go-lucky smile off his face.
Pena knew the challenges when he took over as Royals' manager on Wednesday. If everything was perfect with the club, there would have been no need for a new manager and he'd still be the bench coach in Houston. In his second day on the job Thursday, Pena got shaky starting pitching, shaky relief pitching and little offense when it really mattered. The result was a 14-5 loss to Minnesota.
"I'm not going to get my head down," Pena said. "It's one bad day. A really, really bad day."
Pena is taking Royals' inventory, trying to gauge the assets at his disposal. Along the way, he'll try to find a solution for each problem and keep a 13-25 team in a positive frame of mind. Pena even saw the silver lining in Thursday's drubbing. He said he'd rather be blown out than drop a squeaker.
"I don't want to lose a game by one run," Pena said.
After sweeping the Cleveland Indians to start this homestand, the Royals lost three of four to the Twins. In retrospect, they lamented the 3-2 loss on Monday and the 8-6 loss on Wednesday more than the series finale blowout.
Starter Chris George had the worst of his six starts this season. The Twins hit several hard shots off him while piling up six runs through three innings. George developed a blister on his pitching hand, but refused to use that as an excuse.
"I'm not going to blame anything on the finger today," George said. "I got a blister in the first inning, but I was still able to throw all my pitches. As soon as the nail grows out, it's not going to be a factor whatsoever. I got beat today. That's all there is to it."
Torii Hunter hit a solo homer in the first, but that wasn't George's undoing. What really hurt him were the second and the third innings. The Twins bunched six hits in those two innings, getting a combined five runs that pretty much made this one an early knockout.
"I threw my fastballs over the plate," George said. "They missed them in the first inning, but they didn't miss them in the second and third. They apparently made some adjustments."
Having extended his bullpen Wednesday night, Pena was prepared to send George back out for the fourth inning. But a look at the blister on George's finger convinced Pena to lift his left-hander.
"When the blister came out, it was real tough for him to squeeze the ball," Pena observed. "Especially with the changeup. His changeup was real flat."
Rookie Miguel Asencio and veteran Brian Shouse weren't up to the task of minimizing the damage. Asencio, a Rule 5 draftee who must remain on the roster all season if the Royals want to retain his rights, gave up three home runs in three innings. Shouse, who recently returned from the disabled list, was rocked for the second night in a row. He gave up five hits and five runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Pena managed Shouse last year at (Triple-A) New Orleans. Asked if he's concerned about the sidearm lefty, Pena replied, "I am. I know he has been out and this is the first time he has pitched back-to-back. Today, his delivery was not the same. I saw something different there. It's something we have to be careful about, something we have to watch."
Pena gave struggling center fielder Carlos Beltran a day off in the field and moved him from No. 4 to No. 6 in the batting order. The idea was for Beltran to rest a little and relax. Beltran responded with a 2-for-3 day at the plate.
The Royals waited until the seventh game to give interim manager John Mizerock his first win. They hope it won't take nearly that long to put Pena in the win column.
"I think he's a very intense guy who wants to win and expects the most out of his players," George said. "At the same time, he's going to have a smile on his face, which is a really good combination. I look forward to winning some games with him."
The Royals are playing for their third manager since April 30 and trying to retain a sense of normalcy.
"There's a new name on the door, but the atmosphere has been the same," commented George. "We played tough (Wednesday) night, we didn't play so tough today. But I don't think it's a reflection on the manager. I think it's a reflection of us as players. We'll go out there tomorrow and play better than we did today."
The Royals packed quickly after Thursday's loss and headed for the airport. They'll open a four-game series in Cleveland Friday night.
The more Pena is around his players in hotels or in airplanes, the more comfortable everybody figures to be.
"I look forward to getting out on the road and really getting to know everybody," Pena remarked. "Then I will do what I have to do."
Robert Falkoff covers the Royals for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.