HOUSTON -- If the last two outings are any indication, Tony Pena may be back on track.
"I feel good now," he said.
Pena has thrown a pair of scoreless innings on this road trip, the most recent was Saturday night against the Astros.
"I thought [Saturday] was about as easy as I've seen him throw," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "About 95 to 98 [mph] with the power slider. If he just goes out there and makes pitches, the odds are always going to be in his favor."
Sounds easy enough, but the reality is it can be very difficult. The slightest variance in a pitcher's mechanics can cause all sorts of issues. For Pena, it was a matter of his front shoulder opening too quick, his back leg collapsing and driving away from the rubber prematurely.
But what it really is about is confidence. That is usually what it comes down to with Pena.
"Most guys don't want to readily admit that," Price said about confidence issues. "It might not come across as a lack of confidence, but it may be more of a questioning of what's wrong? Why are they not as effective? What you lose is the anticipation that you're going to be able to do what you're used to doing. I don't think anyone can be ineffective over a long period of time and still expect to do well. I think that's just human nature."
And let's face it, July was not a good month for Pena, who had a 6.00 ERA. During that time, Pena did not wear his usual smile on or off the field.
"Tony is the kind of guy where his team really matters to him," Price said. "It's very important to him that he contributes and he takes it real hard when he doesn't do his job. I think that lends itself to him overthrowing and doing more than he needs to do. He's got back to really focusing on a good delivery and letting his stuff do what it will do when it's located."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.