Upbeat Tejada has O's smiling

Shortstop `content' with team's status

January 19, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun Reporter

Miguel Tejada's happiness was one of the Orioles' biggest concerns heading into spring training last year, but judging by comments the star shortstop made yesterday, it is no longer an issue.

He is "extremely content with the Orioles," Tejada told the Associated Press in his native Dominican Republic, where he is playing winter ball to get some at-bats before reporting to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for spring training next month.

"I don't think anymore about those things that they have to do to sign players," Tejada said. "I am equal to the others, and I am going to do my job on the field.

"I am not going to order them to make a contract with anybody, but I am the leader of the team and if I have to say something, I am going to do so. I don't want to make anyone feel bad, but we all want to win and that is what we are going to try to do."

Tejada's attitude has been under scrutiny since he told an Associated Press reporter in the Dominican in December 2005 that he would benefit from a change of scenery. Tejada, who questioned the team's commitment to winning at the time and in several subsequent interviews, eventually withdrew his trade demand and had a strong 2006 season.

He led the Orioles with a .330 average, 24 home runs and 100 RBIs and set a club record with 214 hits. He was named the Most Valuable Oriole for the second time in his three seasons with the club.

Tejada, 30, also maintained throughout the season that he didn't want to be traded, though the Orioles weighed several offers for him. When the trade deadline passed and he was still an Oriole, Tejada thanked the organization for keeping him and reiterated his desire to stay in Baltimore.

His comments yesterday did not come as a surprise to Orioles vice president Jim Duquette, who, along with several other members of the organization, has spoken to Tejada this offseason.

Duquette declined to give specifics of the conversation, but he characterized it as "upbeat and positive."

"I think we've got enough feedback from him either directly or indirectly that he is pleased with the moves that we have made this offseason and he knows we are going to continue to be aggressive and try to improve the team," Duquette said.

Tejada has been training in Florida, where one of his workout partners has been Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez. Jay Shiner, the Orioles' strength and conditioning coach, has met with several players this offseason, including Tejada, and brought back positive reports on the shortstop's conditioning.

Tejada, who has played in 1,080 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the major leagues and the seventh longest all-time, told the Associated Press he wants to keep the streak going. If Tejada were to play in all 162 games next season, he would have the fourth-longest streak ever, behind only Cal Ripken Jr., Lou Gehrig and Everett Scott.

"I am going to keep going with the streak as long as God wants," Tejada said. "I love to play and I think I am going to keep doing it as long as I can."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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