Ripken, Robinson support Tejada at third
Hall of Famers confident veteran has skills to make transition
After 13 years as one of the Major Leagues' best offensive shortstops, Miguel Tejada -- a little older, a little slower -- will attempt to make the potentially difficult transition to third base upon his return to Baltimore for the 2010 season.
Agreeing that adjusting to the hot corner will take some time, two of the Orioles' best third basemen also think Tejada will do just fine.
In fact, when asked by The Baltimore Sun whether he thought Tejada could succeed as a third baseman, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. said, "There's no doubt about it."
"I think there is a physical side, and then there is a mental side," Ripken added. "But Miggy's got great hands. He knows how to catch a ball, and he's got a great, strong, accurate arm."
Brooks Robinson, widely considered the greatest defensive third baseman of all time, agreed.
"Miguel knows most of the players in the American League," Robinson told The Sun through a representative. "He knows who bunts, who doesn't bunt and how fast they run. I think he is going to do great."
After 16 years and two Gold Glove Awards as a shortstop, Ripken made the move to his right and was the Orioles' third baseman for the last five years of his career, where he also excelled.
In a report by The Sun that ran on Sunday, Ripken said the key to a smooth transition is patience, repetition and a strong commitment.
"I think the hardest part is reworking the thinking about the position," he said.
"As a shortstop, you have learned it. You have learned all the movements. When the ball goes up, you know where you are supposed to be, where you are supposed to cut off the relay, where you are supposed to line up. It's second nature. At third, or at a different position, you have to think all over again, 'OK, that's my job now.'"
Robinson, who spent his entire 23-year career as a third baseman and notched 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, said that kind of transition will take time, despite Tejada's strong arm and good hands.
"I think it is much more difficult to go from short to third than it is to go from third to short," said the 72-year-old Robinson, who, according to The Sun, is recovering from abdominal surgery in December. "At third base, you really have to take the ball as it comes. Third base is a reactionary position, and it might take him a while to get used to it."
Tejada, a career .289 hitter with 285 home runs in 13 years in the big leagues, has played 1,846 games as a shortstop. His other 23 games were spent as a designated hitter. The former American League Most Valuable Player did, however, play third base during the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
A couple years back, Tejada didn't want to make the move from short to third, but now he sees it as a way to extend his career, one that includes six trips to the All-Star Game.
At some point, Tejada will reach out to Ripken and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez -- who moved from shortstop upon arriving in New York in 2004 -- for advice on how to handle the transition, according to The Sun.
And when he does, Ripken, who once played in a Major League-record 2,632 consecutive games, will preach dedication.
"I think the first [thing] is to fully commit to it, and it sounds like he is," said Ripken, who also told The Sun that he was hesitant to move from shortstop because he wouldn't be as involved in the game, but that he grew more comfortable with his new position in late August of his first year as a full-time third baseman, in 1997.
"He has the physical skills to be a really good third baseman, so he shouldn't doubt that. But don't think that you are going to be over there for a little while and then go back to your old position. Fully commit to it, and work hard at the things that you need to work hard at. And don't get discouraged."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.