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Notes: Pena revels in career year

Notes: Pena revels in career year

ST. PETERSBURG -- Carlos Pena connected for his career-high 28th home run off the Red Sox's Jon Lester in the first inning of Tuesday night's 8-6 loss.

"For me, it makes me feel good to improve on my past, on my best," Pena said. "It definitely feels good."

But Pena isn't going to get too excited about reaching the milestone, and he referenced the wisdom passed on to him by Rays manager Joe Maddon and hitting coach Steve Henderson.

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"You take things day-by-day," Pena said. "Yeah, you're happy, we celebrate things like that. But you let it go. Take it on a daily basis."

Making the blast even more special was the fact it came against his hometown team, the Red Sox.

"That's kind of cool," said Pena, who attended Northeastern University in Boston and grew up in Haverhill, Mass. "But that's one of those things you never think about. You think about it after the fact. But you don't really think about those things or pay attention to them or bring them to the plate. Those are things that come after the fact. ... It's the Red Sox, that's pretty cool. But you don't think about it when you're doing it."

Pena is now six home runs shy of Aubrey Huff's 2003 club record and tied for the fifth highest single-season total by a Rays player. He also is just one home run short of Fred McGriff's club record for first basemen set in 1999.

Pena was a non-roster invitee this season and is looking to become the fifth player in the last 25 years to hit 30-plus home runs after being a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, joining Dave Kingman (35, Oakland, 1984), Albert Pujols (37, St. Louis, 2001), John Jaha (35, Oakland, 1999) and Jose Guillen (31, Cincinnati and Oakland, 2003).

Heart & Hustle winner: Infielder Brendan Harris has been chosen as the Rays recipient of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association "Heart & Hustle" Award.

The award is presented annually "to recognize one player on each Major League team who best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game, and recognizes the intangible values of a true team player and leader." Of the 30 winners from each Major League team, one player will be chose as the year's "Heart & Hustle" winner, as voted on by 3,000-plus members of the MLBPAA and announced in November in New York City at the Legends for Youth Dinner.

Lineup change: The Rays' lineup had a little different look on Wednesday night against the Red Sox.

As usual, Akinori Iwamura batted first and Carl Crawford second, but Pena moved into the third spot and B.J. Upton hit cleanup. Also, Delmon Young did not start.

What makes the lineup unusual is the fact the first three hitters are left-handed.

"I wanted to give Delmon a day off," Maddon said. "I just feel like he's not swinging like he had been earlier. Give him a little rest."

Maddon said Wednesday night's lineup was "a protection thing based on [Young] not being in the lineup. ... We'll just see how this looks tonight. B.J. could hit third, or hit first. I think Carlos is getting hot and I want him to be pitched to right now."

Baldelli update: Rocco Baldelli, sidelined since May 16 with a left hamstring strain, began a rehabilitation assignment Monday at Class A Vero Beach. In two games, he is 0-for-5 with a walk and a run scored. He was off Wednesday and will play center field three to four innings Thursday.

"He's actually said from a hitting perspective he's feeling a lot more comfortable at the plate then he thought he would at this time," Maddon said. "He's seeing the ball well. He feels good at the plate. Running-wise, his best times I think have been right around 4.4 to first base and he hasn't really been pushed in regard to trying to score. But overall, the feeling at the end of the day is that he feels good. And that's the important thing. ... As of right now he is on pace to be able to return."

Tentatively, Baldelli's rehab should involve a move to Triple-A Durham at the end of next week.

"There's no rush," Maddon said. "As of right now, he feels good about the way he's running. He's changed his gait a bit. It's been pretty successful to this point."

Rays & Baseball Tomorrow Fund: In support of the ongoing commitment from Major League Baseball, its clubs and the players to increase opportunities for youth participation in baseball and softball, the Rays are teaming up with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) to host an equipment collection drive during the Rays-Athletics series at Tropicana Field. On Sunday, fans are invited to donate new and used baseball equipment, which will benefit the Rays scouts working with disadvantaged youth in Latin American countries.

The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is designed to promote and enhance the growth of baseball and softball throughout the world, by funding programs, field improvement and equipment purchases to encourage and maintain youth participation in baseball and softball. Since its inception in 1999, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund has awarded grants totaling more than $10 million, benefiting nearly 120,000 youth participating in more than 250 youth baseball and softball programs across the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. For more information visit www.baseballtomorrowfund.com.

Up next: The Rays begin a four-game series against the A's on Thursday night in a 7:10 ET contest at Tropicana Field. Right-hander Jason Hammel will start for the Rays and will be opposed by right-hander Chad Gaudin.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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