02/23/10 7:47 PM EST
Tejada excited to be back
Veteran expects no problems while transitioning to third base
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
"In some ways, it doesn't feel like he left," said second baseman Brian Roberts. "And in some ways, it feels like he's been gone forever."
Yes, Tejada's second go-around with Baltimore was a mixture of something old and something new on Tuesday afternoon, as the former All-Star held court with the media and dubbed himself a "new man."
"Everybody knows that I've been through a lot of stuff off the field, but it's all behind me now and I feel like I'm going to start a new career," Tejada said. "The last five years, I came to Spring Training with a lot of stuff on my mind. Now my mind is clear. Now I'm just thinking every day what I can do to help this team."
Tejada reiterated that he has apologized numerous times for his off-the-field issues, which include his name on the Mitchell Report, a discrepancy in his age and a year's probation for lying to investigators about his performance-enhancing drug use. He said those issues at times cluttered his mind, and he is ready to put the past behind him and the Orioles' best interest first.
"After everything is over, I never think that anybody is going to treat me bad, because a hundred times, I apologized for what I did," Tejada said. "Everybody knows that and everybody knows when I take the field, I respect the game on the field. That's most important."
Tejada plans to show that devotion right away. The veteran free agent signed a one-year deal with Baltimore primarily because of familiarity with the organization, but he will be working extensively with infield coach Juan Samuel to acclimate himself to third base. A six-time All-Star shortstop, Tejada said he has not spoken to any other players who have made the shortstop-to-third switch, but he is confident they would all have the same advice: work hard.
"Since I signed, I've been working out at third base, and [Tuesday's workout] was real exciting," said Tejada. "I'm like a little kid with a new toy. I'm enjoying today."
Tejada worked out with Ivan Rodriguez's trainer in the Dominican Republic this offseason, and he already has a plan in place with Samuel to get in daily extra work. Given Tejada's success at shortstop, manager Dave Trembley said it's important the club doesn't try to overcoach the transition.
"We're going to give Miggy the due space that he has earned," Trembley said.
Added utility player Ty Wigginton: "You can move from first to shortstop, in my opinion. Catch the ball that's hit at you [and] you will be fine. Miggy will be just fine."
Tejada has said previously that fielding bunts will be the biggest transition, and it's something he expects to work on extensively this spring.
"I think that's the hardest play for any third baseman in baseball, going forward for the ball with your bare hand," he said. "But I'm going to have a month-and-a-half here at Spring Training to make mistakes before we get to the season."
Tejada spent his first morning with his new-again club, exchanging hugs and joking around during stretching like old times with Roberts and Nick Markakis.
"I love him," said Roberts. "He's fun to be around, makes you laugh, smile. It's just he's got that infectious personality."
Wiggington, who played with Tejada in Houston, was excited to be reunited this season in Baltimore.
"He's an unbelievable teammate," Wiggington said. "Everybody here should be excited to have him part of their team."
Tejada was equally excited to be a part of a promising Baltimore squad. When he left, the organization was mired in a rebuilding project and had nowhere to go but up. The Orioles sent Tejada to the Astros for a five-player haul before the 2008 season, and made an even bigger splash by sending Erik Bedard to Seattle. Two seasons later, Tejada can sense the changing fortunes of the franchise and is eager to finish what he started in his first stint.
"Right now, this team has a lot of young guys with talent," Tejada said. "And now it's not just one or two. It's kind of like the whole team. Now we have a young catcher [in Matt Wieters] who can be a superstar, we have another kid in left field [Nolan Reimold] who can be a superstar, we have a center fielder [in Jones], Brian [Matusz], Markakis.
"There weren't many guys like that on the field last time when I signed."
"Those kids are exciting," Tejada added. "They're happy here and I think we're all together going to have a really good season."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.