SURPRISE, Ariz. —Will Brayan Pen~a be the guy left standing when the music stops on the Royals' catching carousel?
Just know that he's tracking openings elsewhere.
"Everybody does that," he said. "It's not something you worry about, but it's in the back of your mind as your Plan B. This is my business. It's the same for anybody in their business. If something happens, you might have to go somewhere else."
Pen~a knows Houston needs a catcher after an injury to Jason Castro. And that San Diego contacted Bengie Molina to learn his interest in resuming his career in light of Gregg Zaun's decision to retire.
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Pen~a, 29, doesn't want to go anywhere. There might be no player who holds greater desire for a long-term career with the Royals. He even offered to sign a 10-year contract that paid him nothing more each season than the major-league minimum.
"Money is not the issue," he said. "I wish they would give me the opportunity to be here long enough to retire as a Kansas City Royal. I don't want to think of myself being anywhere except with the Kansas City Royals."
That desire might not be enough.
Manager Ned Yost cites defense as the top priority for his catchers — and even Pen~a concedes defense has never been his chief asset.
"Every time I go out there," Pen~a said, "I have that on my mind. It's still a learning process, but it's something that I'm willing to do. I'm not fighting it. I know it's something I can improve in — calling games and my defense.
"I would say I'm better than I was a year ago. I'm not saying I'm at the level when I need to be yet because you never reach that level. If you think you've reached that level, you're a quitter."
A zero-for-14 start to the spring doesn't help, although that's a minor concern. Pen~a batted .320 last season over his final 28 games when he began playing regularly after an injury to Jason Kendall.
The greater issue in Pen~a's job-retention task is an ongoing weight-reduction regimen, which includes an hour of cardiovascular work before workouts and another hour after each game.
"It's a very hard battle," he said as he chomped on a pear. "I'm down to 226 (pounds), but they want me at 215. It's hard because I'm competing for a job and it drains my energy, but it's something I have to do.
"I put myself into this situation. You didn't put ice cream in my mouth, did you? And Ned didn't do it. Neither did Ty (Hill, the strength-and-conditioning coordinator). It was me."
The scarcity of catchers throughout the majors is prompting interest in Pen~a from other clubs. Nothing firm. And nothing much, as yet, being offered in return. But the Royals could probably move him if they feel the need to clear space on their 40-man roster.
Such a move would leave the club no shortage of alternatives — especially if Kendall succeeds in returning from rotator-cuff surgery before opening day or shortly thereafter.
If Yost's preference for defense is more than a talking point, rookie Manny Pin~a looms as an ideal complement to Kendall because his catch-and-throw skills could offset a suspect bat.
The other candidate is Lucas May, who split time with Pen~a over the final five weeks last season after Kendall's injury. May, 26, arrived last July in a trade from the Dodgers and, like Pen~a, remains a defensive work in progress.
"I really can't tell you much," Yost said. "It's still up in the air. It's still real competitive."
"But in my heart, I really want to be here. For me and my family, it's more about being in a place that we want to be — and that's Kansas City."