KANSAS CITY — — Miguel Tejada donned his Orioles uniform and warm-up jacket for one final time this season and joined his now ex-teammates on the field at Kauffman Stadium for the pre-game stretch. He went from player to player, delivering hugs and handshakes before returning to the clubhouse to pack his belongings.
A pennant race awaits Tejada, whom the Orioles traded Thursday for the second time in three years. This time, Tejada was sent to the National League West-leading San Diego Padres for minor league right-handed pitcher Wynn Pelzer in a move that not only saves the Orioles money, but also allows them to evaluate prospect Josh Bell at third base for the rest of the season.
The Orioles, who completed the deal about 48 hours before Saturday's 4 p.m. trade deadline, also will send approximately $1.1 million to the Padres to offset the $2.3 million remaining on Tejada's deal.
"He certainly delivered everything we asked from a standpoint of effort, energy and enthusiasm and leadership," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "He did everything we looked for in switching to a new position. He did everything we asked. He loves the Orioles and loves to play, and those two things I am very grateful for."
Tejada was originally in the Orioles' lineup for their series opener against the Kansas City Royals; he was scratched about three hours before the game with the Orioles and Padres nearing a deal. There had been plenty of trade rumors surrounding Tejada, but he still was somewhat surprised by the move.
"It hit me hard," said Tejada, who hit .269 with seven homers and 39 RBIs in 97 games for the Orioles. "It's not because I [got] traded, but one thing I never want to do is leave this team. I love being here. I feel bad because I left a lot of good guys behind. I always say that I love the city and I love this team. It hit me hard, but I got to go play and help those guys to win a championship."
Tejada signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Orioles in January as the organization was seeking to add a right-handed corner-infield bat and leadership in the clubhouse. His defensive struggles in his first year at third base — he has made 15 errors — were largely expected because he had played his entire career at shortstop. Tejada did have his moments offensively, but he never hit consistently and he batted just .223 with runners in scoring position.
"I know this game is a business," Tejada said. "I wish the team could do better with me here. I'm just sorry because I think we can do much better than we're doing now. I got to accept whatever they do. It's a great honor that a first-place team wants me. I wish it could be here and we were fighting for first place. That [didn't] happen, and I got to go do my job."
Tejada, whom the Orioles originally traded to the Houston Astros in December 2007 for five players, said several weeks ago that he not only wanted to remain with the team through the end of the season, but he also hoped to stay in Baltimore for the next couple of years.
"I would love to never leave here," he said. "I'll always be interested in coming back. I already told the team that the only team that I can be coaching when I retire is here. I love it here. In my heart, I'm one of the Orioles. I feel like this is the team that gave to my family. I think that everywhere I go, people are going to look at me as one of the Orioles. Hopefully now, they'll look at me like a Hall of Famer like Jim Palmer or Brooks Robinson because those guys did so much for baseball and the Orioles. But I think I'm getting there because I love the Orioles and I played for them a long time. I think my heart belongs to the Orioles."
The Orioles, however, consider Bell, the 23-year-old they acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the George Sherrill deal before last year's trade deadline, their future at third base, and he'll get a chance to be evaluated by new manager Buck Showalter, who will take helm of the club Tuesday.
Bell is expected to be activated Saturday. The Orioles cannot activate him until then because he was optioned to Norfolk on July 21 and he needs to stay down for at least 10 days in a non-injury situation. Bell hit .263 (5-for-19) in six games with the Orioles before he was optioned. Since his demotion, he has hit .400 (12-for-30) with a double, three homers and six RBIs in eight games for the Tides.
"Really, the primary motive is to see a little more of Josh Bell and try to make a determination of how close he is and whether he can help us next year," MacPhail said.
Pelzer, 24, was ranked the seventh-best prospect in the Padres' system by "Baseball America" heading into this year. The magazine also rated his fastball —which sits in the mid-90s — and his slider as the best in the Padres' minor league system.
"We liked him; we think his future is probably likely will be in bullpen," MacPhail said. "He has the potential to have two plus major league pitches."