Eating lunch today, I stumbled upon this snippet from Christina Kahrl:
Big Moves: Putting Brett Tomko out of his misery? Benching Tony Pena Jr.? Getting over Joey Gathright? It seems these sorts of things abuse the meaning of the word “big.” The fixes are slightly more important, in that it's just as well to see if Kyle Davies is ready to take over a rotation slot, if Mike Aviles can play, and if Jose Guillen and Mark Teahen will do enough of something to be interesting to trade for at month's end.
Kahrl is one of my favorite writers, but when I read the line about benching Tony Pena Jr. I recoiled. Pena's been benched? Maybe I've just become over-sensitive to the presence of TPJ, but despite the heroic appearance of Mike Aviles, I was under the impression that Tony never really went away.
Luckily, as I used to say with one of my college roommates when getting in an argument about something factual, the internet will solve. Looking at Pena's game log on B-R pretty clearly reveals an initial demotion after Aviles's callup on May 29th. Unfortunately, Hillman couldn't stay away from the TPJ shaker in his cabinet with total abstinence.
TPJ Playing Time Since the Aviles Callup:
Total Royals Games: 42
TPJ Games Started: 8
TPJ Late-Inning Sub Games: 10
TPJ Innings Played: 88
TPJ Plate Appearances: 33
Pena's been flat-out benched in 24 games since Aviles has been called up, although many of those missed starts have come in clusters (five straight games in mid-June, then another eight to close the month, a five game benching before the ASB). So yes, broadly, TPJ has been benched, although Hillman has been fairly aggressive in getting him into led-games in the late stages. Nevertheless, there has been some dithering on the matter, as Pena has managed to start eight times since supposedly being demoted.
Still, despite the uneven distribution of his playing time, you have to hand it to Tony. While some players would have struggled in a new role, he's been consistent. Over those 33 PAs, he's been pure Pena, hitting .129/.156/.226.