When his playing days are over, Brayan Pena will likely have a job behind the microphone waiting for him if he so desires. The St. Louis Cardinals catcher was a natural as he joined “The Brian Stull Show” at the St. Louis Ribhouse on Wednesday night.
“Today it was three weeks away from my surgery,” reminded Pena, who needed a piece of cartilage removed from his knee after slipping on a wet dugout step in Spring Training.
“I feel so much better. I really have to appreciate everybody who’s gotten involved with my recuperation–we’d be here forever if I mentioned every single name, but they know who they are. And they know exactly what they meant to me, I just have to thank them and appreciate what they did for me.”
“Hopefully, next week I can go out there and start running on the field and taking some batting practice,” he shared. “After that, it would be a decision for our training staff to see where we’re going from there.”
Similar to Adam Wainwright’s rehab last year from Achilles surgery, Pena has been using the anti-gravity elliptical machine to aid in his recovery.
“Yes, I feel like that really helped me a lot because it doesn’t put that much weight on my joint when I walk or run,” he said. “At the same time, it’s a very complicated process–why? Because I really want to do whatever it takes to get back, but at the same time, I have to be smart about it because I don’t want any setbacks and they don’t want any setbacks. We’ve been very aggressive, but we’ve been very smart. I have to do what I do, but at the same time I have to think about my future and I can’t rush it–I have to trust the process and so far it’s been great.”
Brayan Pena discusses the progress in his injury rehab, plus perspective on tonight’s starting lineup…
The smile grows even wider across the face of Brayan Pena on the topic of his fellow Cubano, Aledmys Diaz.
“I know how much this means to him and his family,” said Pena, who also defected from Cuba. “I know how much he went through to get to this point. And to see him doing this great, it’s one of the things that made me feel good. I know when he got sent down to Memphis during Spring Training, he was very sad and he was kind of down. We had a great talk.
“I told him, just keep your head up. Keep your head up, good things will happen–you never know in this game and continue to work hard. Continue to work hard because there’s a lot of talent in you and just wait, when you have the opportunity, you’re going to show it. And it really did, he didn’t let me down.”
According to Elias Sports, Aldemys Diaz is the first MLB player of the modern era to debut with a .500 batting average through his first 50 at-bats. Heading into to Wednesday night’s game, the rookie was batting .466 overall but was just shy of enough at-bats to qualify for the league leaders in average.
“It’s amazing,” Pena agreed. “But I know how much work he put in. I know he went down there and continued to improve his game, he continued to work.”
Perhaps most impressive was the attitude from Diaz–who accepted there were areas of his game that could get better.
“That’s what really fascinated me about my countryman because I’ve never taken anything for granted,” said Pena. “Good things happen for a reason. For him to be able to do that and not putting his guard down and continuing to go out there and grind–and finally see that on the big stage, very excited for him. Everybody knows that Jhonny Peralta is our guy. He’s a great shortstop, great friend, great teammate. But somebody had to go out there and play that position and he’s holding it down for us and very happy and very proud.”
Brayan Pena shares his pride on the performance of Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz…
In Spring Training, pitcher Mike Leake showed off an impressive arsenal of pitches–in particular the movement he was able to get to both sides of the plate. Traditionally a slow starter in his career, Leake has been working to find those same kind of results thus far in the regular season. Brayan Pena caught Leake while the two were teammates in Cincinnati and offered some insight.
“I was talking to him the other day,” said Pena, who wanted to make sure the right-hander was settling in with his new team. “He said, Pena, I feel great here. I love it here. It’s one of those things I need to go back to what I do best and I just have to focus a little bit more about making my pitches. I just have to go out there and work with my cutter in those bullpen sessions and going back to my basics.”
Pena noted that while Leake may not have pitched great to this point, he had given the Cardinals a chance to stay in the game.
“That’s a good thing about our ballclub,” he added. “Even though our guys are not doing what we know they can do–at the same time, they’re giving us a chance…Our bullpen has picked us up big time, they’ve been doing such a great job. And obviously our offense.
“But that’s the scary part–when those guys that we know are going to be there, that’s when our ball club’s going to take off and hopefully everybody can stay healthy. Great things are going to happen for us. Right now, we’re in that stage of still trying to find our way. Trying to make everybody sink in and after that, when we all click together–we’re going to take off.”
Photo credits: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com