Maddon keeping Pena atop lineup for now

Maddon keeping Pena atop lineup for now

Maddon keeping Pena atop lineup for now
BOSTON -- Manager Joe Maddon isn't afraid to plug his sluggers into the leadoff spot to break a slump, and it's working again, this time with Carlos Pena.

The first baseman was back in the leadoff role in the series opener against the Red Sox on Friday, his third consecutive game at the top of the order.

"It's cool. I like it because it's different," said Pena, who grew up in Haverhill, Mass., and attended college at nearby Northeastern University. "I'm just rolling with it."

Pena went 3-for-8 with one home run, one double and three RBIs in his first two games batting leadoff. He'd been in an 0-for-17 skid prior to moving up the order.

So far, the slugger admits he's fond of his new role.

"Everybody does enjoy it," Maddon said. "It's different and he likes it, so I know he's excited about it. I know he's not up there just trying to get hits, he wants to get on base, he wants to set the table. And if he's thinking that way, I expect to see more hits."

Maddon used the same tactic last season when Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce fell into slumps. All three players homered in their first game leading off. Entering Friday, the trio had combined for a .481 average (13-for-27) from the top of the order.

So why does this strategy work?

"We get them to think differently about themselves and think differently about their approach to hitting and what they're trying to do, accept their walks, think of the middle of the field and not just try to drive the ball," Maddon said. "Primarily, that's it and when you do that, they just have a different outlook on the day. Normally, once you get them re-established you move them back down to where they're used to being, but for right now it's worked out pretty well."