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Red Sox get OF Pena for RHP Arroyo

Posted: Monday Mar 20, 2006 7:36 PM
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FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - Wily Mo Pena has amazing power, when he makes contact. Bronson Arroyo has shown he can be a reliable starting pitcher, when given the chance.

Both are just looking for consistency.

The Boston Red Sox traded Arroyo to the Cincinnati Reds for Pena on Monday in a swap of talented young players that could fill a major need for each team.

Arroyo was headed to the bullpen because of Boston's deep rotation, but the right-hander now figures to help Cincinnati's mediocre starting staff. Pena struck out in 37 percent of his at-bats last season, but Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein thinks that number could drop.

"Pena strikes out on a rate basis more than anyone else in the big leagues,'' Epstein said. "There is precedent for those (type) players developing a little bit more discipline, increasing their walk rate and becoming better all-around hitters as they adjust to the big leagues.''

The 24-year-old Pena had more strikeouts at the plate last season (116) than Arroyo did on the mound (100). But Pena also hit 19 homers in 311 at-bats.

"This guy has some crazy power, man,'' said Boston DH David Ortiz, who rated Pena's strength above his own.

Arroyo can pitch a lot of innings and, if necessary, move to the bullpen. Last year he was 14-10 with a 4.51 ERA in a career-high 205 1-3 innings.

Both players appeared to be happy where they were - Arroyo with a team he enjoyed and Pena finally getting a chance to start regularly in left field after playing no more than 100 games in any of his previous three seasons.

The right-handed hitting Pena will be Boston's fourth outfielder, with most of his playing time likely coming as a fill-in for left-handed hitting right fielder Trot Nixon against lefty pitchers.

The Reds had to keep Pena in the majors the past three seasons, or place him on waivers, after he ran out of options in 2002 at the age of 20. He was just 17 when he signed a five-year major league contract with the New York Yankees in April 1999.

"He hasn't had time to develop'' in the minors, Epstein said. "He's still a really dangerous threat against left-handed pitching.''

Pena was surprised by the deal.

"I just want to be on a team and play every day,'' he said.

He could get that chance in 2007 because Nixon is eligible for free agency after this season.

Pena, who signed a $1.25 million contract for 2006, can't become a free agent until after the 2008 season. He batted .254 with 51 RBIs and 20 walks last season. For the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, he had four singles and three strikeouts in 10 at-bats.

The trade improves the Reds on defense, not one of Pena's strengths. Adam Dunn, who moved to first base when Sean Casey was traded to Pittsburgh, can return to left field. Scott Hatteberg, a free agent who played with Oakland last year, will play first.

"Signing Hatteberg was the key'' to the deal, Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said.

Boston still has Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Matt Clement, Tim Wakefield, David Wells and Jon Papelbon as starters.

Cincinnati needs the 29-year-old Arroyo to start, and Krivsky was willing to give up a raw talent who could develop into an outstanding power hitter.

"I can't worry about that,'' Krivsky said. "This trade makes us a better team now.''

Arroyo, who loved playing in Boston, took a hometown discount when he signed an $11.25 million, three-year contract on Jan. 19.

"We're disappointed, as is Bronson, that our prediction has come true,'' said Arroyo's agent, Gregg Clifton. "After taking a discounted deal to remain with the Red Sox, he will not throw one pitch under that deal as a member of the Red Sox. We certainly respect the Red Sox's right to run their business. I understand their desire to always improve their team.''

Epstein said the club told Arroyo it couldn't guarantee he wouldn't be traded.

"I don't think it was a huge factor'' in Cincinnati's decision to make the trade, Epstein said, "because if he was on just a one-year contract, which really would have been the alternative in a negotiation, then he still would have been under the club control for three years.''

The trade came one day after Arroyo's only good outing in four exhibition starts - five scoreless innings in a 3-1 win over Baltimore.

"Because we have depth, we might not have been able to get enough out of him,'' Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, "and that's not a knock on him.''

Boston claimed Arroyo off waivers from Pittsburgh before the 2003 season. In 126 major league games, he is 33-33 with a 4.59 ERA.

The trade was difficult "from a personal standpoint,'' Epstein said.

"I really admire Bronson,'' he added, but "if I allowed my personal feelings ... (to) affect our judgment in what we thought was best for the organization, then I wouldn't be doing my job.''