BALTIMORE (AP) – 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.
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.
AP writer Dionisio Soldevila in the Dominican Republic contributed to this report.