ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. | Catcher Brayan Peña is back with the Royals. For how long? Who knows? The answer likely depends on John Buck’s recovery from a herniated disk.
Peña, 27, had the option last month, after clearing waivers, to try his luck with another organization. He possessed sufficient minor-league service to become a free agent.
He chose instead to remain with the Royals — even though he saw his path to big-league duty blocked by Buck and Miguel Olivo.
Since clubs rarely carry three catchers, it begs the question: Why stay?
“It’s probably going to sound a little odd,” Peña admitted, “but I really didn’t want to go anywhere else. I want to be in the big leagues — don’t get me wrong. But I wanted to stay here in the Kansas City organization because they’ve been great to me.
“It’s like a family, and this is where I want to live. I’m happy they gave me an opportunity again.”
There was also a financial consideration.
Peña would have forfeited the balance of his $138,700 minor-league salary by becoming a free agent. Getting a similar deal elsewhere was no sure thing since every other club had just passed on the opportunity to acquire him through a waiver claim.
Either way, Peña didn’t sulk after returning to Class AAA Omaha. He batted .307 with a .354 on-base percentage in 22 games — numbers that virtually mirrored his nine-year career totals of .303 and .353 — before Buck’s injury created an opening.
“I’m not sure how much he’s going to play,” manager Trey Hillman said. “I like what Miguel is doing right now. His offensive numbers are climbing. He’s obviously our best throwing catcher.
“But Brayan adds an element of an extra switch-hitter off the bench. He continues to work, and he is energetic.”
For now, Peña remains content to bide his time.
“Sometimes, you need to understand,” he said, “even though it’s very tough, that it’s just not your moment. I just look at the patience they’ve had with me, and the way the skipper and Dayton talked to me, that let me know they respect the way I do my job.
“That gave me the power to go back to the minor leagues and work. Just keep my head up and keep working hard to get back here. That’s exactly what my mentality was when I went down there — just to improve myself and not put my head down.”
Roster move likely
With outfielder Coco Crisp expected to rejoin the club for Thursday’s series finale, the Royals must make a roster move to clear space. Crisp missed the series’ first two games while on bereavement leave following the death of his great grandmother.
Players on bereavement leave do not count against a club’s 25-man active roster. Barring an injury, the player most at risk appears to be infielder Tug Hulett, who has just three at-bats in eight games since his May 23 recall from Omaha.
Greinke places third
Royals pitcher Zack Greinke finished third in Sports Illustrated’s annual poll of club executives and scouts on which player they would select to start a franchise.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols was the runaway winner followed by Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria. Twins catcher Joe Mauer placed fourth followed by Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, the 2008 winner.
First baseman Kila Ka’aihue continues to make a push for a recall to the big leagues. He went three for four Tuesday in Class AAA Omaha’s 3-2 loss to Round Rock in 10 innings.
Ka’aihue’s average is up to .287 after a slow start. He is batting .317 since May 1 and .385 over his last nine games. He also has 46 walks in 49 games for a .437 on-base percentage.
It was 28 years ago Wednesday — June 3, 1981 — that Jerry Grote became the first Royal to get seven RBIs in a game. He did it in a 12-9 victory over Seattle at then-Royals Stadium.
Grote’s record has since been matched 10 times, most recently by José Guillen on June 7, 2008 in a 12-11 loss to the Yankees in New York. Others to post seven-RBI games: Bo Jackson (twice), Willie Aikens, George Brett, Frank White, Kevin Seitzer, Johnny Damon, Raul Ibañez and Mike Sweeney.