Pena showing survival skills behind plate
Royals catcher makes cut once again with Quintero's departure
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."
Paulino awaiting date for his elbow surgery
KANSAS CITY -- Pitcher Felipe Paulino has not yet scheduled the date for reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. That awaits consultation with specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles.
"I'm going to see him next week," Paulino said. "Then we'll make a decision on the date. It depends on his schedule."
Paulino said the inflammation in his elbow has to subside before surgery can be performed. He'll be the fourth Royals pitcher to have Tommy John surgery this year, joining Joakim Soria, Danny Duffy and Blake Wood.
Cain shifts rehab stint to Triple-A Omaha
KANSAS CITY -- Center fielder Lorenzo Cain has moved his injury rehabilitation home from Double-A Northwest Arkansas to Triple-A Omaha. He takes the outfield spot vacated by Jason Bourgeois, who was called up on Wednesday by the Royals.
In the four games of his latest stay with the Naturals in the Texas League, Cain went 4-for-15, .267.
Cain began the season as the Royals' starting center fielder but was hurt in the fifth game and hasn't played for them since. He's currently getting over a torn left hip flexor.
Gordon, Hochevar earn top KC honors for June
KANSAS CITY -- Left fielder Alex Gordon was voted Royals Player of the Month for June by the Kansas City media.
Through Tuesday, Gordon had a .344 average for the month and ranked second in the Majors with 21 runs. He also led the Royals in doubles, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Right-hander Luke Hochevar, following his shutout of the Rays on Monday night, was voted the team's Pitcher of the Month. In his two victories in June, he totaled 16 2/3 scoreless innings. His overall record was 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.