The Orioles traded Miguel Tejada to the Astros in December 2007… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
When Miguel Tejada was first introduced to the Baltimore media a little more than six years ago at a Camden Yards news conference, he had received the franchise's richest contract and was trumpeted as a top-echelon shortstop and potential team savior only one year removed from being voted the American League's Most Valuable Player.
On Tuesday, Tejada again sat at a dais in the B&O Warehouse at an introductory news conference, but this time it was as a 35-year-old veteran in the latter stages of his career who had just signed a one-year, $6 million deal to be the club's stopgap third baseman.
Wearing his new Orioles cap and smiling broadly, Tejada said he feels he doesn't have to be the main guy in 2010 but instead is joining a group of young players that is talented enough to compete in the AL East for the first time since 1997.
"This time, unlike last time, it's not about me. It's about everybody," said Tejada, who batted .313 with 14 home runs and 86 RBIs for the Houston Astros in 2009. "Now they have pitching, outfielders. They have young talent. They don't have to do much to be a winner here."
In December 2003, Tejada signed a six-year, $72 million deal with the Orioles and spent four seasons with the club, batting .311 with 102 homers in 429 games. But he became disenchanted with the Orioles' losing ways, asked for a trade in December 2005 and had it granted two years later when new club president Andy MacPhail dealt him to the Astros for five players in an effort to kick-start the team's rebuilding effort.
"When I got traded, I got a phone call from Andy and he told me the reason. I said, 'Andy, I am never going to have bad feelings with the Orioles because I understand they are going younger,' " Tejada said.
Tejada said he never sold his house in Baltimore and hoped he would someday return, perhaps as early as 2010 when his original contract expired. Initially, MacPhail didn't think Tejada would be a financial fit for the Orioles, but as the market settled, Tejada remained available and climbed the team's wish list.
"Frankly, I was very pleasantly surprised with the options that were available to us in this market," said MacPhail, who this offseason has traded for veteran starter Kevin Millwood and signed closer Mike Gonzalez and first baseman Garrett Atkins. "That signing [Atkins] did give us the latitude to watch how both [corner infield] markets unfolded, and I think we came out of this thing as well as we could have hoped."
The Orioles preferred a right-handed hitter who would agree to a one-year deal because they have third base prospect Josh Bell in the minors. But MacPhail made a point Tuesday to say Tejada is the club's third baseman for 2010.
"We didn't get Miguel with the idea that this is going to be a few months and Bell's coming in. That's not at all what we're thinking," MacPhail said. "We wanted somebody out there 162 times, or as close as we could get to it, to help our young kids so they can begin to understand what it takes to compete and win at this level."
Tejada, a shortstop for the past 13 seasons, has played third base only during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but he said he is ready for the challenge.
"I've been playing baseball for a long time, and I know it's a different position," he said. "I know it's not going to be an easy thing to do. I'm going to have a lot of time to work with the coaches."
Tejada said he expects to talk to others who have made the switch - such as Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and his new teammate Ty Wigginton - to get advice. In his first stop with the Orioles, he didn't want to change positions.
"I think my career is going to be a little bit longer, with me moving to third," Tejada said.
MacPhail said it is undetermined where Tejada will hit in the lineup, and Tejada said he doesn't care as long as he is in it. He also said he wasn't concerned about getting his uniform number 10 back from center fielder Adam Jones, who had joked earlier that a swap might cost Tejada a Rolex watch.
"He's the future," Tejada said of Jones. "It's going to be his position to what I'm going to do with the number. To me, it's not that big a deal."
Throughout the news conference, MacPhail lauded Tejada for his commitment to his teammates and for his strength of character - acknowledging Tejada's recent humanitarian efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
"Going there, I think really is going to make me a better person, a better father and to tell people to appreciate what they have," Tejada said.
MacPhail added that he had no concerns about Tejada's controversial past, which includes steroid accusations, age falsification and a guilty plea to misleading Congress in its investigation into Rafael Palmeiro's steroid use.