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1988 Dodgers player profile: Alejandro Pena, slow in every way except his fastball

Alejandro Pena, the longest-tenured Dodger pitcher on the post-season roster shines in relief in 1988.

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When you look through the names of the Los Angeles Dodger pitchers that have won the National League ERA title, you find Koufax, Sutton, Brown and Kershaw. You will also see in 1984, the name Alejandro Pena. However, he had only one appearance after August that season and then had shoulder surgery in 1985. The Dodgers were patient while Pena and the trainers worked on his rehab and in 1988, that worked paid off as Pena had a banner year in the bullpen.

Pena was called "Slow" for his deliberate preparation for each pitch, as Sam McManis explained in the Los Angeles Times:

The mere summoning of Alejandro Pena from the bullpen does not mean he is ready to pitch. Certain rituals must be completed first. There is his entrance, for instance. Pena doesn't walk to the mound, he strolls. And once there, the Dodgers' right-handed reliever dawdles.

Pena manicures the mound with his spikes, and seemingly spends minutes kneading the rosin bag.

Inevitably, the plate umpire will have Pena remove his neck chain, which resembles a hood ornament.

Then, finally, Pena stares at the catcher's mitt, like a marksman lining up his target.

Once he throws a pitch, the routine starts all over again. He takes so much time between pitches that his Dodger teammates kiddingly call Pena the human rain delay.

"He even stands slow," Ron Perranoski, the Dodger pitching coach, said with a shrug.

How acquired: Pena was signed by the Dodgers as amateur free-agent from the Dominican Republic in 1978.

Prior MLB experience: Pena was called up August 1981 after the strike was settled and pitched very successfully about of the bullpen (14 games 120 ERA+, two saves and 1-1 record) but a bleeding ulcer would prevent him from participating in the 1981 World Series but he did pitch in 2 games in the 1981 NLCS.

After an indifferent 1982 season where he pitched in the minors and 29 games for the Dodgers, Pena became a starter in 1983 and 1984 resulting in his aforementioned ERA title in 1984. But his right shoulder wore down and he needed surgery in February 1985. He pitched just two games in 1985 and he was ineffective as starter and reliever in 1986. After no success as a starter in the first half of 1987 as a starter, Pena was permanently moved to the bullpen in June and in the second half he had 10 saves and a 1.81 ERA.

1988 age: 29

1988 stats: Pena would lead the Dodger bullpen with 94.1 IP that year. He went 6-7 with 12 saves and 31 games finished. He had a 1.91 ERA and allowed just four home runs with 83 strikeouts and 27 walks allowed.

Regular season game of the year: Pena had six appearances of three or more innings (one was 3.2, the rest were 3 IP). The Dodgers won all six of those games so the one I picked is the September 26, 1988 NL West clincher where Pena pitched innings six through eight, facing 11 batters, allowed a single and a walk, struck out two. Jay Howell would get the save and the Dodgers would win the West.

NLCS performance: Pena was 1-1 against the Mets, and his highlight was Game 4. After the Dodgers tied in the top of the 9th, Pena pitched three scoreless innings with no hits, three walks and a strikeout for the win.

Pena doesn't walk to the mound, he strolls. And once there, the Dodgers' right-handed reliever dawdles.-Sam McManis, LA Times 7/29/88

World Series performance: Pena pitched the eighth and ninth innings in Game 1, and allowed one hit and struck out three. He picked the win after the antics of the bottom of the ninth, as Kirk Gibson pinch hit for Pena.

Pena also pitched three scoreless innings against the Athletics in Game 3, and ended the World Series with five scoreless innings, seven strikeouts, and just three baserunners allowed.

Post-1988 playing career: Pena would have another successful season in 1989, completing a near decade of pitching for the Dodgers, but in December he and Mike Marshall were traded to the New York Mets for Juan Samuel. Pena would eventually play for the Mets, Braves, Pirates, Red Sox, and Marlins from 1990-1996. Pena would never start again, pitching 275 games from 1989-1996. He would make postseason appearances for the Braves in 1991 and 1995 (his loss in 1991 in Game 7 is one reason Jack Morris is still a candidate for the Hall of Fame).

Where he is now: Alejandro Pena returns in 2013 as pitching coach of the Dodgers rookie level Dominican summer league team.