ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -One season after being released by three teams, Carlos Pena put together the best performance in Tampa Bay Devil Rays history and was chosen Tuesday as Major League Baseball's AL comeback player of the year.
The 28-year-old slugger batted .282 with a club-record 46 home runs and 121 RBIs after joining the Devil Rays in spring training as a non-roster invitee.
Last year, he homered once in 18 games for Boston and spent most of the season in Triple-A with the Red Sox and New York Yankees. He hit 27 homers and drove in 82 runs for Detroit in 2004, but slipped to 18 homers and 44 RBIs the following season and was released by the Tigers in March 2006.
Pena signed with the Devil Rays in January. He was reassigned to the minors late in spring training, but wound up on the opening-day roster because of an injury to Greg Norton.
``Winning the comeback player of the year award is wonderful, but I really do hope that he gets some MVP votes also,'' Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. ``He puts those numbers up with the Red Sox, the Yankees or whoever this year, they'd be clamoring for him to win the award right now. I definitely believes he deserves some kind of respect there also.''
In addition to setting Devil Rays records for home runs and RBIs, Pena scored a team-high 99 runs and set club marks for walks (103), on-base percentage (.411) and slugging percentage (.627).
Pena is the first player in major league history to hit 40 or more homers the season after being released. He's also the 11th AL player to have 100 walks, 45 homers and 120 RBIs in a season.
The left-handed hitting first baseman also was a positive influence on young players in the Devil Rays' clubhouse.
``He's willing to give of himself for the rest of the group,'' Maddon said. ``You talk about leadership, I think you really have to have enough energy left over at the end of the day to give to somebody else, and I think that's what he does. We need more of that. His professional approach is really rubbing off on a lot of the other guys.''
Washington's Dmitri Young was the NL winner. The winners were selected by reporters for MLB.com.

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