KANSAS CITY -- Looking to add offense as they head into a stretch of nine out of 12 games at American League parks, the D-backs on Tuesday selected the contract of slugger Wily Mo Pena from Triple-A Reno.
Pena, who has not played in the big leagues since 2008, was crushing the ball in Reno, hitting .363 with 21 homers and 63 RBIs in 63 games for the Aces.
"He's been crushing it, hopefully it continues," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's been swinging the bat well in Reno the whole time, lots of power. He's been hitting good pitching down there and we felt like playing the next games in the American League that it would be important to have a guy like him in our lineup."
During Interleague Play, games in AL parks utilize the designated hitter. Given his defensive shortcomings in the outfield, Pena is perfectly suited for the DH role and the D-backs had no other logical candidate.
Power has never been an issue for Pena, but making contact has. That seems to have changed this year, at least at the Triple-A level.
"My first time in my career I was thinking about it, wow, .363, that's a lot to hit," he said. "I worked hard in the off-season and I showed up in spring training and worked hard and I went down and tried to do the same thing."
The rise in average coincides with his emphasis on not striking out as much.
"It's different," he said. "My approach is just to hit for average. I think everybody knows that I would just worry about hitting home runs, just think about that. But I've realized I have to go to the plate and just make contact. I know I've got power. I just told myself that I have to prove that I can hit for average, too. I'm taking pitches, taking some walks and striking out less. I was surprised when I saw my numbers. I was like, wow, that's not me, not the way I used to strike out before. My main thing is just to make contact. If I make contact, something will happen. Just trying to put the ball in play and we'll see."
The club designated infielder Sean Burroughs for assignment to make room for Pena.
Gibson on receiving end of joke neckties
KANSAS CITY -- When he walked into his office at Chase Field on Monday prior to getting on the team bus for the flight to Kansas City, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson looked at the tie bench coach Alan Trammell was wearing and thought he saw something familiar.
Then head athletic trainer Ken Crenshaw came by and Gibson did a double take.
Apparently veterans Kelly Johnson and J.J. Putz were at the heart of the prank in which every player wore ties with the picture of Gibson taken during the filming of a Right Guard deodorant commercial in 1989.
"I think they're both guilty and there will be retribution toward both of them at some point this year," Gibson said with a smile on his face. "I generally don't get involved in things like that. I don't aim to get even, but I do aim to get ahead."
Though he was on the receiving end of the joke, Gibson had to admire the player's handiwork.
"It was pretty good, it was pretty funny," Gibson said. "Very well executed. I'll get them back. We'll have some fun with that. I've got some ideas already."
Upton's relaxed approach working at plate
KANSAS CITY -- Less thinking has translated into more success at the plate for D-backs right fielder Justin Upton.
Upton was rewarded for his hot play of late by being named National League Player of the Week.
The 23-year-old led the Majors with 16 hits last week while batting .552 and collecting his first career walk-off home run on Thursday against the Giants.
"Just relaxing and seeing the ball," Upton said. "That's it. It's a lot easier said than done. It seems to be working so I just want to stay with it."
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson certainly made sure that the award would not go to Upton's head.
"It's a nice award, but I told him let's move on," Gibson said. "We're just getting into the season and he's been outstanding for us really since [May 29], but I caution anybody to feel like we've accomplished anything at this point. It's a good sign to see him swinging the bat so well and it will certainly help us if he continues to do that."