Glancing Back, and Remembering Orlando Peña
Orlando Peña lasted 14 years in the major leagues without overpowering stuff. (He was only 5-foot-11 and weighed less than 160 pounds.) But he knew how to pitch, and was effective as both a starter and reliever. Plain and simple, he got batters out.
The Cuban-born Peña was playing for Daytona Beach in the Florida State League when he was acquired by the Cincinnati Reds before the 1956 season. He spent three seasons in the Reds’ farm system, then pitched for the Reds in 1959. He appeared in 46 games, all but eight as a reliever, and finished the season with a 5-9 record and a 4.76 ERA with five saves. He went back to the minors in 1960 and in 1961 was traded to Toronto in the International League for pitcher Ken Johnson.
Peña was obtained by the Milwaukee Braves and then traded to the Kansas City Athletics for Bill Kunkel and Leo Posada. He was inserted immediately into Kansas City’s starting rotation, and went 6-4 in 12 starts with a 3.01 ERA. He finally had made the big leagues to stay at age 28.
Peña became the “ace” for the worst team in the American League. He was the league leader in losses with a 12-20 record in 1963, despite a respectable 3.69 ERA. In 1964 he posted a 12-14 record with a 4.43 earned run average. He started the 1965 season 0-6 and was acquired on waivers by the Detroit Tigers. Working strictly out of the Tigers’ bullpen, Peña went 4-6 with a 2.51 ERA and four saves over the rest of the 1965 season. He made 54 relief appearances in 1966, going 4-2 with seven saves and a 3.08 ERA.
In 1967, Peña went to the Cleveland Indians, where he was 0-3 with a 3.36 ERA. In 1968, he was purchased first by the Seattle Pilots and then the Kansas City Royals, two expansion teams that didn’t start playing until 1969.
Peña spent the 1968-1969 seasons in the minor leagues. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970 and went 2-1 in 23 appearances. He appeared in 16 games for the Baltimore Orioles over the next three years, and then landed with the St. Louis Cardinals, going 4-4 in 1973 with six saves and a 2.18 ERA. He was 5-2 for the Cardinals in 1974 with a 2.60 earned run average, only to be traded to the California Angels. He appeared in seven games for the Angels in 1975 before being released and retiring.
That was eight different teams in 14 major league seasons. Peña was 56-77 with a 3.71 ERA in his career.