Tejada still wants trade

Oriole would like to play `where they want to win'

December 30, 2005|By RICK MAESE | RICK MAESE,SUN REPORTER

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- The ire of Miguel Tejada is hotter than ever. The Orioles' star shortstop reiterated his request to play elsewhere in 2006, backing away from recent comments that seemed to have put many fans' worries at ease.

"Next year, I want to be somewhere where they want to win," he said in an interview last night before playing in a Dominican League game.

Tejada said he's even more upset now than when he first floated the idea of a trade three weeks ago, noting that since that time, the Orioles have done little to alleviate his concerns and improve the ballclub.

"What have they done?" he said. "Nothing."

Tejada told an Associated Press reporter on Dec. 8 that "the best thing will be a change of scenery." He said last night that while he was prepared to be traded when he made those remarks, he thought his comments might encourage Orioles management to make some necessary moves to bolster the lineup and keep him around.

Since that time, though, Tejada noted that the team has failed to sign a pitcher and has agreed to terms with only three players - catcher Ramon Hernandez, first baseman Jeff Conine and outfielder Jeromy Burnitz. Conine and Burnitz still need to pass physicals before their deals become official.

Tejada said he has no problems with the Orioles' recent signings, but "it's not what we need."

Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said that Tejada has the same goals as team management: to win. "I think we've added good players," Flanagan said last night. "We've upgraded the club to this point and we'll continue to upgrade the club. We haven't stopped."

Coming off one of their worst seasons, the Orioles entered the offseason with owner Peter Angelos' promise to players and fans that the Orioles would "do everything we can do ... to see that this team begins the 2006 season in a first-rate competitive position.

"We are coming back strong next year," Angelos told The Sun in the final days of the season. "I know you have heard that tune before, but this time it will literally come true."

Tejada said he's surprised the Orioles didn't do more after he expressed his displeasure with the organization.

"I thought I [would] put pressure and we'll see," he said. "You can't tell me it cannot happen. What's Toronto doing? They're a whole new team, new players, new everything. ... The division we are in, it's not easy. You have to get the right players to be competitive here."

The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are perennial front-runners in the American League East, but the Blue Jays have improved their lineup considerably this offseason, acquiring pitchers A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan and infielders Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus.

Tejada's comments come just as trade talks appear to have cooled. The Orioles have spent much of their time these past three weeks weighing trade offers for Tejada. Sources close to the front office say they're still receiving phone calls daily about Tejada, but they have yet to hear an offer they find acceptable.

The best proposal the Orioles have received is from the Red Sox, who've offered outfielder Manny Ramirez and pitcher Matt Clement. But Orioles management prefers not to trade Tejada to another team in the American League East.

Tejada has not been speaking directly with Orioles management. He said: "They already know what I want." He's also recently asked his agents, Diego Bentz and Fernando Cuza, to refrain from giving him trade updates.

He said that right now he's trying to focus on his winter-league team, the Aguilas Cibaenas, whose season ends soon.

Asked whether he envisioned himself wearing an Orioles uniform next year, Tejada said: "I just don't know."

He says if the Orioles are not able to trade him, he will still report to spring training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Feb. 21. "I respect the game too much," he said.

On Dec. 11, just three days after making his initial remarks, in his only other public statement of the offseason, Tejada told Comcast SportsNet: "I never said I wanted to be traded." That, along with public comments made by teammate Brian Roberts and Hernandez, the newly acquired catcher and one of Tejada's closest friends, led many to believe that Tejada's trade request was exaggerated.

The Orioles, though, never stopped listening to trade offers because Tejada's agents never backed away from the request.

Tejada has taken some heat in the Dominican media for sending out mixed messages. Last night, he clarified the Comcast statement, saying: "I didn't say I want to stay with the [Orioles], either."

Tejada says that he made his initial comments out of frustration, but it was not fleeting and he knows he's not alone. "Everyone in Baltimore feels the way I do," he said.

His anger gradually grew, beginning with the team's inability to add new players for the second half of last season.

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