The Cleveland Indians have signed Wily Mo Pena to a minor league deal. Yes, that Wily Mo Pena. As if there could be another.
Pena did not play pro ball at all — anywhere — in 2016. In 2015 he played for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, hitting .268/.396/.448 with 17 home runs in 125 games. He played for the Orix Buffaloes the year before that and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2013 and 2012. He hit well at those stops when he was healthy. His last work in the United States: 2011, when he split time between the Diamondbacks and Mariners to underwhelming effect.
The odds of Pena making the Indians are super long. Indeed, this is a minor league deal without an invite to big league camp, meaning that he’s unlikely to even see garbage time in major league spring training games absent some injuries or absent him really, really impressing someone in workouts. Pena is 35 too, so even with some decent success in Japan, it’s possible that he simply isn’t good enough to make a team anymore.
Still, for a few brief moments several years ago, Pena turned some heads with his prodigious power and the suggestion that, if a couple of things fell in the right direction, he could be a good big leaguer one day. It never happened, but a lot of us have a hard time letting go of that sort of thing, so we perk up a bit when we hear of signings like this.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.