Tejada Wants Out Of O's

Shortstop weary of losing

Mora echoes frustration


Dallas -- Unhappy with the direction of the Orioles' franchise, Miguel Tejada, probably the club's best player since Cal Ripken's heyday, wants to play elsewhere next season.

In a telephone interview with the Associated Press in his native Dominican Republic, the All-Star shortstop, who is coming off a tumultuous season during which his name was intertwined with the Rafael Palmeiro steroid controversy, lamented the franchise's lack of progress and called for a "change of scenery."

"I've been with the Orioles for two years and things haven't gone in the direction that we were expecting, so I think the best thing will be a change of scenery," Tejada said. "I've done many things with the team and I haven't seen results and the other teams are getting stronger while the Orioles have not made any signings to strengthen the club."

Tejada, 29, was unavailable for comment last night. Diego Bentz, Tejada's agent, declined to react to his client's comments before speaking to him first. However, Orioles All-Star third baseman Melvin Mora ardently supported one of his closest friends on the team.

"I think he is right," said Mora, speaking from Puerto Rico, where he is on vacation with his family. He said he spoke to Tejada three days ago, but Tejada's apparent wishes to be traded never came up. "He says what he feels and that's pretty much what has happened. You let people go like nothing and you do nothing to help this club. And he wants to go someplace to compete. I don't blame him. We want [the front office] to do something."

Tejada's and Mora's comments came just hours after the Orioles' front office finished business at baseball's winter meetings. The Orioles, who have suffered through eight straight losing seasons, added setup reliever LaTroy Hawkins, acquired in a trade with San Francisco for Steve Kline, and San Diego free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez.

"Who is going to pitch for us?" added Mora, who has one year left on his contract. "I don't care what people think of what Tejada says. We know exactly what he says because we feel it."

The timing of Tejada's declaration surprised Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan, who arrived home late last night to a slew of phone messages. He said earlier this week that the club talked to Tejada a couple of times to ask for input, and he was "on board with what we're doing."

Flanagan said late last night that he believes that Hernandez, a former teammate of Tejada's in Oakland, is a godfather of one of Tejada's two children.

"I can't make any comment on his comments tonight because I haven't spoken to him or his agents directly," said Flanagan, who said that neither Tejada nor his agents have voiced any unhappiness about the shortstop being with the Orioles. "It is a surprise."

Reached last night at his home, Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos declined to comment when asked if the Orioles would consider dealing Tejada, who hit .304 with 26 home runs and 98 RBIs this season, but whose numbers faded in the second half.

"He is an exciting player and he plays to win," said Angelos, who signed Tejada from Oakland to a six-year, $72 million contract before the 2004 season. "I am disappointed and surprised to hear him say that."

Earlier this week, Bentz acknowledged that Tejada, who went to the playoffs in four of his seven seasons with the A's, was frustrated from two straight losing seasons. "He was serious when he said he wants to win," Bentz said.

Tejada grew noticeably distant through the second half of the season as the once first-place Orioles plummeted to fourth in the American League East. One theory was that a spat with fellow Dominican Sammy Sosa led to Tejada's dour countenance. Several of his teammates also acknowledged that Tejada grew unhappy with former manager Lee Mazzilli.

But before the season ended, it was revealed Palmeiro, who failed a drug test and was suspended in August, suggested he may have received a tainted supply of the vitamin B-12 from Tejada.

Although Tejada's liquid vitamins were found to be clean by Major League Baseball, the cloud hung over the shortstop. He had to appear before a congressional committee to explain about the B-12 supply. Two of his teammates told Congress that they also received the injectable form of the vitamin, available only by prescription in the United States, from Tejada, who had brought it from the Dominican. One of the teammates said he had injected Tejada between 70 and 80 times in two seasons in the Orioles' clubhouse.

"Everybody knew he wasn't the same Miggy in the second half - the rah-rah stuff and on the field," said outfielder Jay Gibbons, who called Tejada's comments "out of character."

"We need Miggy on board with us and being our team leader like he has been."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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