Notes: Pena thrilled to be with Red Sox

Notes: Pena thrilled to be with Red Sox

OAKLAND -- At a time when things have been anything but uplifting for the Red Sox, the smiling face of Carlos Pena could, at the very least, inject some enthusiasm into a team that is trying to snap out of its worst funk of the season.

The pride of Haverhill, Mass., and Northeastern University had his contract purchased from Triple-A Pawtucket in time for Monday's game at Oakland, and just like that, he was batting eighth and starting at first base for the team he grew up rooting for. Kevin Youkilis, Boston's starting first baseman, went to left field to make up for the absence of Manny Ramirez, who was out again with right knee woes.

"It's a dream come true, to be honest with you," said Pena. "It's amazing just to be a part of this organization, especially growing up in Boston or around the area. Being such a big fan, to actually be part of the team, it's a dream come true. That's the best way to explain it."

The road to the Red Sox has been long, winding and, at times, unnerving for the 28-year-old Pena, who failed to reach his promise with the Athletics, Rangers and Tigers.

After being released by the Tigers on March 26, Pena was signed to a Minor League contract by the Yankees on April 15. But when it seemed apparent to him that he was never going to get an opportunity to play in the Bronx, Pena asked for his release and got it on Aug. 15. Two days later, the Red Sox signed him to a Minor League deal.

"It seems to have worked out for the best," Pena said. "For it to be the Red Sox, I couldn't ask for anything better. It's amazing. You take chances and this one obviously has paid off the right way because I'm here in the clubhouse enjoying the team."

At a time when the Red Sox have been decimated by injuries, Pena has gotten his opportunity, and it started Monday. A roster spot opened up for Pena when left-hander Jon Lester was placed on the 15-day disabled list with back woes.

Instead of focusing on what has gone wrong for him at previous Major League spots, Pena was intent on enjoying everything about finally getting a chance to play for the Red Sox.

"You know, personally I think that I have the ability to be a very good Major League baseball player," Pena said. "But I also understand that sometimes you're not in control of your future as a baseball player. You know, all you can do is really go out there and play hard every single day and hope that someone notices, and that you do get the opportunity you're looking for. If you can't control it, don't even think about it. Just play baseball."

Lester's held back: Instead of trying to rush Lester back to the mound, the Red Sox decided to put him on the DL. Lester injured his back while getting rear-ended on his way to Fenway Park on Aug. 18. He made two starts after that, but labored to get through the latter outing, a victory over the Angels on Aug. 23.

Lester, who was examined over the weekend in Seattle, was sent back to Boston for more tests.

"He's obviously a big part of our future," said Francona. "We've asked a lot of him already. I think we're all a little concerned about sending him out there because we're thin. Then he can get a clean bill of health, and we'll feel better and we won't overdo it, asking him to do something he's not ready to do physically because we don't want to hurt this kid for the future. He's too valuable."

Rookie Kason Gabbard took Lester's spot in the rotation on Monday night in Oakland.

Wily Mo to get looked at: Wily Mo Pena was also out of the lineup for a third straight day because of soreness in his left wrist.

Francona said that one of the Oakland A's doctors was going to examine Pena on Monday.

"He kind of grabbed me yesterday and said, 'Give me a cortisone shot, I want to play tomorrow.' As much as I appreciate that, we're going to get him examined and see what we've got to do," Francona said. "I don't know. He's got some pain certainly around there. Last time he didn't say anything and he had a broken bone and he kept trying to play. So we know he can handle pain. We need to get some more information."

Mirabelli close: The injury list just doesn't seem to end. Catcher Doug Mirabelli missed a second consecutive start because of soreness in his left ankle. Francona indicated that Mirabelli would be able to start on Tuesday night, when Josh Beckett takes the mound.

Trot and 'Tek: As decimated as they've been over the past few days, the returns of Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek could not be coming at a better time. Francona indicated that both players should be ready to play -- at least in rehab games -- by the time the Red Sox open their homestand on Thursday.

This means that it's not out of the realm of possibility that both Nixon (strained right biceps muscle) and Varitek (left knee surgery) could be back in the lineup at some point during the four-game series against the Blue Jays, which ends on Sunday.

Coming up: Beckett (14-8, 5.21) will face right-hander Kirk Saarloos (6-6, 4.66) on Tuesday night.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.