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Pena: Too early to talk free agency

Carlos Pena batted only .196 last year, but he drove in more than 100 runs in three of his past four seasons. G Fiume/Getty Images

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs first baseman Carlos Penareported a day early to spring training, and he wasted little time getting ready as he took infield, batting practice and extra hitting in the cage with coach Rudy Jaramillo.

Pena, who will be a free agent after this season, was asked about Albert Pujols, who might join him on the open market after the season.

"I'm just happy I'm here today," Pena said. "I don't think too far into the future. I hope things work out for the best for the team and for me. But to think that far ahead [about free agency] is kind of silly. It can hurt the team and it can only hurt me."

Pena joked that he, like Pujols did with the Cardinals, would soon set a deadline with the Cubs for discussions on a long-term deal.

Pena, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal in the offseason, wants to leave his .196 batting average from last season behind.

Asked if he wanted to improve his batting average this season, Pena said: "Absolutely, I definitely want to improve all my numbers. I know the emphasis is on the batting average because last year was so difficult for me in that category. I also understand that that is not me. That doesn't represent me. It wouldn't be intelligent on my part to carry that piece of luggage on my back."

Although it's the beginning of spring, Pena is anxious to see what it will be like playing in front of 41,000 Cubs fans as opposed to the tepid crowds that showed up in Tampa during his career as a Ray.

"I'm looking forward to that. It's going to be intense," Pena said. "I can't wait to feel that type of energy. I keep hearing about it, but I know for a fact that until I experience it I won't know exactly what [the media and his teammates] mean. When I feel those chills myself, that's when I will really understand what being a Cub really means."

Pena is the only experienced first baseman on the 25-man roster. Tyler Colvin and Jeff Baker will back him up.

"I'm defintiely there to help as much as I can," Pena said. "This is a team that will help each other. We're all going to get together and pull in the same direction."

NOTES

  • Quade on the Cubs' defense in 2010 and his expectation in 2011: "I was not satisfied in particularly with the inner-diamond defense. We need to be better, period. We talk about [Castro] and DeWitt being better. We have two kids who have a lot of work to do in the middle of the diamond. We need to be better. I believe like most teams that pitching and defense is going to be huge. We've got some arms that we are excited about, but we have to make plays behind them and make them on a regular basis."

  • Quade on whether Alfonso Soriano would be lifted for a defensive replacement late in games this season: "I want him to come here expecting to play nine innings everyday. I want him to get better and continue to work at being as good as he can be defensively. Also to stay healthy."

  • Chairman Tom Ricketts is expected to come to spring training on Friday and is scheduled to speak to the media on Saturday.