No spring in Tejada's step

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Shortstop's start at bat, in field even slower than usual

Perlozzo asks for more intensity

March 28, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC AND ROCH KUBATKO | JEFF ZREBIEC AND ROCH KUBATKO,SUN REPORTERS

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Of all the disturbing signs this spring for the Orioles, none is more ominous than the sight of Miguel Tejada swinging and missing at fastballs and unable to run down ground balls at shortstop.

Since returning from the World Baseball Classic, Tejada has struggled both offensively and defensively. In Sunday's loss to the New York Mets, the shortstop was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and was unable to get to two softly hit balls in the hole. In yesterday's 5-4 defeat to the Florida Marlins, he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and bounced a throw that Javy Lopez scooped up at first to save him from an error.

After one at-bat yesterday, an angry Tejada returned to the dugout and booted the cooler.

"He assured me not to panic, that when the season starts, he is going to be there," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I put my faith in him and believe that's going to happen."

Since signing with the Orioles, Tejada has traditionally been inconsistent in the spring before turning it on for the start of the season. Still, one Orioles official said Tejada's play this spring has the club slightly concerned, especially after Tejada's numbers faded in the second half last year.

He is hitting .231 with no home runs and two RBIs, and he has just one extra-base hit. He also has struck out five times in 26 at-bats.

The All-Star shortstop did some extra work before yesterday's game with hitting coach Terry Crowley, and Tejada also spent time with infield coach Dave Cash, who was helping him with his defensive positioning. Tejada has struggled going to his left to field balls, so Cash had him trying different stances to get a better jump on the ball.

"We were just working," Tejada said. "I think I can get better. I never stop working. The more I work, the better I will help the team. We're working more on where I stand. I just think that there are some balls up the middle that I don't get to, just because I get the wrong jump. Now, we're working to get a different jump."

After an offseason trade demand that he eventually rescinded, Tejada's mood has been analyzed much of the spring. He has been mostly subdued both in the clubhouse and on the field this spring, but Perlozzo has noticed Tejada perk up the past few days. Yesterday, he was singing, dancing and shouting as the Orioles went through their workout.

"I think Miggy is kind of getting himself back in the comfort level where he's back with the ballclub, the pain of last year is gone," Perlozzo said. "It takes a little time. I think he's on a great path and I think he's going to peak just when we need him to."

Perlozzo sounds off

A day after criticizing his team's effort and focus to reporters after an error-ridden, 8-0 loss to the Mets, Perlozzo addressed his players yesterday morning with a simple message. With Opening Day less than a week away, Perlozzo told his team that it's time to bear down and turn up the intensity.

"Basically, the losses don't bother me ... but I want us to carry ourselves a little better, work at doing the things that professional people do and see that it computes to the entire team," Perlozzo said. "We need to turn it up a little bit, I told them that. It wasn't a yell session by any stretch."

Perlozzo didn't single out any players; rather he was displeased with specific patterns of sloppy behavior, such as not running out ground balls and not hustling on defense after fly balls.

"It's ... a total game atmosphere and attitude that we need to take into our approach. It needs to get better in all areas," the manager said. "This late in the spring, you understand some drop in intensity. But at the same time, we're not here to make excuses."

Third baseman Melvin Mora and Tejada said Perlozzo's message was well-received.

"He's going to get [upset] someday, and you don't want to see it," Mora said. "He's relaxed, but he can get [upset]. We have to try to play better. What he doesn't tolerate is the mental errors and people not running the ball out."

Said Tejada: "Sometimes, we need that. When you see your boss or manager talking to you like that, it pumps you up and it makes you do something for him."

Buck stops here

Going from the dugout to the broadcast booth, Buck Martinez arrived in camp as part of the Comcast crew that televised yesterday's game, fresh off his stint as manager of the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic.

"It was fabulous," said Martinez, whose team was eliminated in the second round. "From the moment I stepped on the field on the third of March, I don't think I've had an experience as enjoyable as working with those guys."

The former Toronto manager also predicted that Roger Clemens will return for another season. "I don't know why he'd walk away," Martinez said. "He threw great for us. Every time I saw him on the side, I just shook my head."

Word on Gil

The Orioles are expected to find out this afternoon if catcher Geronimo Gil cleared waivers and can be sent down to Triple-A Ottawa. Gil can refuse the assignment and become a free agent.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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