Former AL MVP Tejada set to rejoin Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles and Miguel Tejada are headed toward a
reunion. This time, however, Tejada will play third base instead of
shortstop.

Tejada and the Orioles have agreed on a 1-year contract,
pending a physical, the infielder confirmed Saturday.

“I’ve reached a deal for one season and $6 million. I know
it’s less than what I made last year, but the market has changed
and I feel happy to be able to play in the major leagues,” Tejada
told
The Associated Press in Santo Domingo during a phone
interview from Miami.

Tejada made more than $14 million with the Houston Astros in
2009, the final season of a six-year, $72 million contract he
signed with the Orioles. Tejada played shortstop with the Orioles
from 2004-07 before being traded to Houston for five players:
outfielder Luke Scott, pitchers Troy Patton, Matt Albers and Dennis
Sarfate, and third baseman Mike Costanzo.

Cesar Izturis played deftly in the field at shortstop with
Baltimore last year and is expected to retain his starting position
in 2010. Tejada will be asked to play third base, a position that
became vacant when the Orioles decided against bringing back Melvin
Mora.

“I’ll play in third base, which means a change in my
career,” he said. “It’s like the beginning of a new career, but
I’ll continue doing my same workout routine to be able continue my
career.”

Tejada hit .313 with 14 home runs and 86 RBIs in 158 games
last season. The 35-year-old became a free agent after the Astros
declined to offer him arbitration last month. He is a six-time
All-Star and was the American League MVP in 2002.

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail
recalled Saturday asking Tejada to move from shortstop during his
final year in Baltimore.

“He said he didn’t think it was time. He went to the National
League after I traded him there and was the All-Star shortstop for
two years,” MacPhail noted. “So, who’s to say Miggy wasn’t
right?”

Now, however, Tejada is willing to switch to the hot corner.
And MacPhail is confident Tejada will capably handle the position.

“He’s probably aware that at this point in his career, that’s
the right move,” MacPhail said. “He’s certainly not the first
shortstop, if he ends up playing third, that made that change.”

Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken went from shortstop to third
in the latter stage of his career and played the position well. Can
Tejada do likewise?

“You don’t know until you get there,” said MacPhail, who was
questioned by reporters at FanFest, a function at the Baltimore
Convention Center designed to connect team officials and players
with fans.

Last March, Tejada was sentenced to one year of probation for
misleading Congress. He admitted he withheld information about an
ex-teammate’s use of performance-enhancing drugs when questioned in
2005 by congressional investigators.

Tejada acknowledged he bought human growth hormone while
playing for Oakland, but said he threw the drugs away without using
them. Prosecutors said during his February plea hearing they had no
evidence to contradict that.

Through it all, Tejada has excelled on the field. Without
saying names, MacPhail explained that he never figured his new
third baseman would be available this late in the offseason.

“I would be honest with you: I don’t know how realistic I
thought our potential acquisition was going to be,” MacPhail said.
“We always had him on the board. But I wasn’t holding my breath.”

MacPhail assumed his current position midseason in 2007. One
of the key deals in his effort to rebuild the team was the trade of
Tejada that December; three of the five players have already made
notable contributions and Patton is considered among the team’s top
prospects.

And now, it appears Baltimore will again benefit from
Tejada’s powerful bat and veteran leadership. MacPhail said several
of the Orioles — notably second baseman Brian Roberts —
considered Tejada to be a positive influence in the clubhouse
during his stay in Baltimore.

“I do know that Miggy was a very popular teammate. I know
that because Brian volunteered it,” MacPhail said.

Manager Dave Trembley said, “I’ll say this about Tejada: I
don’t think there’s ever been a guy who wants to win more. He has a
very, very strong passion to win. Guys on the team love him. I
never had a problem with him. If it works out that he comes back
here, I think it would be a real good acquisition.”

The addition of Tejada means newcomer Garrett Atkins will
spend most his time in the field at first base. Atkins, signed as a
free agent in December, can also play third.

“The plan is for me to play first, depending on who else they
sign,” Atkins said at FanFest.

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