St. Louis Cardinals: Brayan Pena set to start his rehab assisgnment

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Mar 31, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena (33) singles during the fifth inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena (33) singles during the fifth inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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One of the St. Louis Cardinals key free agent signings is nearing a return to the big league ball club as he plans to start his rehabilitation assignment in AA Springfield on Tuesday, June 6th.

The Cuban native Brayan Pena was brought into the St. Louis Cardinals organization with the main idea of him serving as a formidable backup catcher to Yadier Molina, who has been known for having very few rest days throughout grueling 162 game seasons.

Pena has been in the majors since 2005, spending time four different teams and has been known for his performance at the plate as a switch-hitter in the past few seasons, especially in 2013 when he nearly hit the .300 mark in batting average while playing for the Detroit Tigers.

For his career, Pena has appeared in over 600 games and has a slash line of .260/.334/.324 to go along with 23 career home runs and 164 RBIs. His statistics are not the type that will jump off the page at you.

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However, considering the backup’s the Molina has had in years past, Pena should bring a nice improvement to the roster despite the hot start that Eric Fryer has had in his time as the number two catcher on the team, batting .400.

In 2015, Pena was a member of the Reds, appearing in 108 games he managed to finish with a batting average of .273 in 333 plate at-bats, only accumulating 34 strikeouts, which is a nice quality to have in a bat off the bench.

Pena’s glove is another positive note of his game. As a catcher, he has posted a .995 fielding percentage in ten seasons and put up a 43 caught stealing percentage in 2014 as a part of NL Central foe, Cincinnati Reds. He also has experience playing first base (as it seems most catchers do), which could come into play at some point if necessary.

Pena received news in early April that he was going to need left knee surgery to remove a piece of loose cartilage. Pena has been a part of baseball activity in recent weeks, performing tasks such as hitting 90 mph balls out of a pitching machine, along with catching a Carlos Martinez bullpen session.

Set to start his rehab this week, Pena will be looking to build up the endurance in that left knee and will appear mostly behind the plate in games, but also could see some action as a designated hitter to get him some extra at-bats, according to Nick Krueger of MLB.com.

Once Pena completes his rehab, which may be the full 20 days that he is allowed, I would expect Matheny to give him more playing time than Fryer has received to spare Molina some energy behind the plate.

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Pena was signed to a two-year deal worth $5 million, which is a considerable pay raise from his last contract in Cincinnati in which he only made $1.4 million in the final year of his deal. He will be making $2.5 million for both of his years for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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