He's still striking out, and he's still not hitting better than .220. But Carlos Pena is looking more and more these days like the left-handed power threat the Cubs believed was worth the $10 million price tag last December.
Since going without a homer and just six RBIs in his first 25 games this season, Pena has 12 homers and 30 RBIs - including three homers in his past five games.
All three have either tied the game or given the Cubs the lead, including Monday night's three-run shot in the sixth that came three batters after Starlin Castro's tying homer off Sox starter Gavin Floyd.
So what's gotten into the former AL batting champ lately?
``There's plenty of factors we could talk about,'' he said. ``We could say weather, we could say getting used to a new environment. But I just don't even go back and try to analyze it too much.
``Instead of looking at what's wrong, I try to always talk about what can I do right? So that has been my attitude. Every day I come in and I'm in the cage with [hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo]. And the work is never done. It's never-ending. I'll be back out there again tomorrow trying to improve myself as a hitter. And, hopefully, I can just keep on contributing for the ballclub and for my teammates.''
It's probably no coincidence the Cubs are 5-2 in the games Pena has played (4-1 in his starts) since returning to Chicago off that 2-8, three-city trip - as Pena's hit the three homers, added two doubles and driven in six runs in those games.