Pena will platoon in left field for the Nationals, who hope he
will provide a power bat to the team that is last in the majors in
Pena was a backup for the AL East-leading Red Sox, batting .218
with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 73 games. He has 67 homers -- as
well as 436 strikeouts -- in 459 games over six seasons with
Cincinnati and Boston.
The Nationals have hit only 82 home runs this season.
"We don't score a lot of runs," Nationals general manager Jim
Bowden said. "We don't have a lot of depth at the higher levels
right now, and he's 25 years old with power. It was an opportunity
we couldn't turn down."
To make room for Pena on the roster, the Nationals optioned
rookie pitcher Matt Chico to Triple-A Columbus late Friday. Chico
(5-7) started against the Mets and was essentially pitching to stay
in the majors. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings and walked five.
"He's got to go down there and be himself again and throw
strikes," manager Manny Acta said.
Chico is the only Nationals starter to begin the season in the
rotation and not miss a turn, but he has walked 20 batters in his
last 24 innings. He will probably get two starts with Columbus
before rejoining the Nationals when the major league rosters expand
"To be honest, I wasn't all that shocked," Chico said. "I
haven't been pitching all that great. It might be better for me if
I go down and get my head on straight and just worry about
location. That's it."
Pena will join the team Saturday, and his arrival means a
demotion of sorts for Ryan Church, who has been the everyday left
fielder. Church, who bats left-handed, is hitting .265 with 10 home
runs and 48 RBIs.
"Sometimes acquisitions can motivate other players to step up
their game," Bowden said.
Pena is a liability in the field and has had trouble staying
healthy -- he missed part of last season with a broken wrist -- and
Bowden was frank about the pros and cons of the trade.
"One thing about Willy Mo Pena I can tell you is if you give
him 500 at bats, he's going to hit 40 home runs and strike out more
than Adam Dunn," Bowden said. "And he's a below-average defender
who needs to work hard on his game."
Note: RHP John Patterson, trying to recover from a nerve problem
in his throwing arm, will pitch live batting practice Sunday at the
Nationals complex in Florida.