HOUSTON -- First baseman Carlos Pena was back in the Houston lineup Wednesday after missing three games because of a death in the family, and the return could not have come at a better time for Pena or a floundering Astros offense.
Pena got the nod at designated hitter against Tampa Bay, batting fifth in the Houston lineup. The death was on his wife's side, preventing a stint on the bereavement list, which is limited to immediate family.
"It's a very difficult time in my life right now, a time to heal," he said. "It doesn't happen overnight."
Houston manager Bo Porter gave Pena Sunday and Monday off. Pena did not make it back in time to be in Tuesday night's lineup, but he was available off the bench.
Pena appreciated the organization's understanding throughout the situation, saying it exhibited a commitment to the players as people, not just ballplayers.
"It shows a lot about what we say here," he said. "You talk about family and look around the clubhouse and see lots of signs about 'Family First,' and the Astros proved that in this situation.
"They did everything they could to make sure my family was all right and taken care of. We really appreciate it. It makes it such a pleasure to play for a general manager and a manager who practice what they preach."
As for baseball, the Astros' offense has been punchless of late. The team is hoping that Pena -- who was batting just .221 before but produced seven RBIs in his last seven starts -- will provide a spark in the middle of the lineup.
Porter said Pena's return was mutually beneficial, with the team getting a key lineup cog back and Pena getting a chance to achieve normalcy after a hectic 72 hours.
"We've missed him," Porter said." A lot of times, it helps when they're able to get back into the atmosphere with their coaches and teammates and do what it is they love to do. Carlos was very appreciative. Like I told Carlos, his wife and her family, it was important for him. I'm glad he was able to be there."
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less