Tejada starts anew with O's

Star meets with Perlozzo, says he is `embarrassed'

February 22, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Wearing dark sunglasses, a light green T-shirt and blue jeans, Miguel Tejada walked into the home team's clubhouse at Fort Lauderdale Stadium at 8:35 a.m. yesterday and proclaimed to several Orioles seated near his locker, "Happy New Year."

For the first time since his public request for a trade in December, Tejada met his teammates, who welcomed him as if nothing had changed. The All-Star shortstop hugged new catcher Ramon Hernandez, third baseman Melvin Mora and pitcher Rodrigo Lopez before settling at his corner locker.

He didn't address his teammates before the Orioles' first full-team workout as he said that he would do last week, but he did have a five-minute meeting in the office of Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo, and the two vowed to put the offseason behind them.

Later, in a 15-minute news conference with about a dozen reporters, Tejada said that he will no longer use vitamin B-12, reiterated that he didn't want to play anywhere else but Baltimore and that he was embarrassed by the attention his trade demand drew.

"I feel really embarrassed because I am not that kind of man," said Tejada, who was subdued while answering questions. "I'm not that kind of person to make some trouble. Everything is over. Everything is straight. What I think right now is think forward and what you can do better this year to be in a better position."

Tejada denied that his subpar second half in 2005 - he had only four home runs after Aug. 1 - had anything to do with his name being intertwined in the Rafael Palmeiro steroid controversy. Palmeiro told Congress that injectable B-12, given to him by Tejada, might have triggered the first baseman's positive steroid test. Tejada again denied any wrongdoing, but said yesterday that he will no longer take B-12 shots.

"I know I am clean. I know that I am not guilty," he said. "There's nothing that can change. I am going to tell the truth and I am going to keep playing."

Tejada, who initially had said that he made his trade request to encourage the front office to make the necessary additions, offered other reasons yesterday. He intimated that he was having a bad day when he made his much-publicized "change of scenery" comment to an Associated Press reporter in his native Dominican Republic.

He said that he was angered by the club's loss of closer B.J. Ryan, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, and though he was aware that the Orioles were about to sign Hernandez, his former teammate in Oakland and the godfather of his daughter, he thought that the club needed a pitcher, not a catcher.

"I was a little upset when I see everybody picking up players. At the same time, I didn't see the Orioles getting any player," said Tejada, who said that he and Hernandez have no problems and are "like brothers," disputing what several sources have said was a falling out between the two.

But Tejada also said that he was content with the team before his trade request, which he rescinded about a month later in a phone conversation with vice president Jim Duquette that was brokered by Mora.

"I feel happy with the team the way it was before [the trade demand], too," he said. "I am always happy. My job is to come here and play baseball. I am going to let the front office do [their] job. I just play here, I just work here, and I am just going to do my job.

"It will never happen again. I am happy here, I got two years here and it's all the same. I don't want to be on a superstar team. I just want to be on a team that everybody believes we can win."

The Orioles shortstop met with Perlozzo for about five minutes in the manager's office after taking his physical. Tejada, who cited reception problems for his failure to return Perlozzo's messages despite talking to several other Orioles teammates this offseason, informed the manager that he would talk to some of the players individually, rather than the team as a whole.

"I think it played out exactly how I thought it would," said utility infielder Chris Gomez. "He was just a little frustrated. So what? Big deal. It's not going to affect the way he plays, I can guarantee you that."

Added second baseman Brian Roberts: "It's over with."

Tejada later held court in the clubhouse, talking passionately in a circle with about six other teammates. At times during yesterday's workout, he looked like the Tejada of old, holding animated conversations with several of his teammates and joking around as he took part in drills.

"I thought he was a little quiet early, but I thought he loosened up as he came out on the field," Perlozzo said. "I don't think we have any problems whatsoever. I think everything in the past is already gone, and he's ready to play."

Tejada is confident that Orioles fans will forgive him.

"I didn't hurt nobody," he said. "I am going to still love the fans in Baltimore. What I do, I do it for everybody ... my teammates, the fans. I think the fans in Baltimore deserve to have a good team."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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