Notes: Pena offers a different side
Outfielder shows speed, ability to hit the other way
WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Wily Mo Pena is known for hitting home runs a long way, but there are two aspects of his game that have gone relatively unnoticed: his speed and a penchant to get base hits to the opposite field. Those traits helped the Nationals win two games against the Marlins early this week.
For example, in the ninth inning Tuesday, he worked the count against closer Kevin Gregg and was able to get a base hit to right field and then score all the way from first on a double by Jesus Flores. On Wednesday, Pena had the game-winning hit with his seventh-inning single to right-center.
The right-handed-hitting Pena said that he can go the other way on a regular basis as long as he is playing often. He pointed out that he was able to do it in 2005 when he was playing for the Red Sox. Pena hit .301 that season.
"When I was hitting .300 for the first time, I was hitting the other way, so I was thinking the same way for this year, but I never had the opportunity when I was in Boston," Pena said Thursday.
In terms of running the bases, people believe that because Pena weighs 265 pounds, he has no kind of speed. But, as he has shown with the Nationals, he can beat out an infield single.
"A lot of people think, 'He is so big, he can't run.' I can run because I work a lot on my legs. So I'm happy that I know how to move," Pena said.
In the game: Outfielder Justin Maxwell made his Major League debut Wednesday against the Marlins. He came in as a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning and flied to deep right field for the first out of the inning.
As he was making his way to the dugout, Maxwell, a Maryland native, was given a standing ovation.
"That's the first time I ever got a standing ovation for a flyout, but it was pretty cool with all the energy in the ballpark," Maxwell said.
In Maxwell, the Nationals see their future center fielder. He was clearly the best position player in the Nationals' Minor League system this season.
Maxwell, who was Washington's second selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft behind third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, combined to hit .281 with 27 home runs, 83 RBIs and 35 stolen bases this season for Class A Potomac and Class A Hagerstown. Maxwell was the only player in the Minor Leagues to record at least 25 doubles, 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases in 2007.
On the mound: Lost in Wednesday's win over the Marlins was the fact that right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo, 24, made his Major League debut and struck out three batters in 1 2/3 innings.
"I was a little nervous in the beginning, but after I threw my first pitch, everything went away. I think it's still the same game." Albaladejo said. "My two-seam fastball, sinker and slider were pretty good yesterday."
Albaladejo languished in the Pirates' system for six-plus years. He said he didn't take his craft seriously until Pittsburgh released him early this year. He then signed with Nationals and posted a 0.78 ERA (two earned runs in 23 innings pitched) in 14 appearances with Triple-A Columbus. Albaladejo, who also pitched for Double-A Harrisburg, fanned 8.3 batters per nine innings pitched and posted a .195 batting average against (42-for-215) in 2007.
"After I left the Pirates, I was kind of mad," Albaladejo said. "I think that helped me to take this game as my job and take it a lot more seriously -- work hard and think more about the game, not just 'I'm a baseball player' and that's it. I never thought I would get released. Getting released told me this would not last forever."
Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said there were strong feelings from farm director Bobby Williams, Columbus manager John Stearns and Minor League coordinator Tim Foli that Albaladejo should be given a chance at the big league level.
"They were very adamant that he deserved that opportunity," Bowden said. "It took a lot of debate. You have to be careful with numbers."
Coming up: The Nationals play the first game of a three-game series against the Braves on Friday night at 7:35 p.m. ET. Washington right-hander Joel Hanrahan (4-2, 5.14 ERA) will face Atlanta right-hander John Smoltz (12-7, 3.09 ERA).
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.