<
>

Orioles hoping Tejada will stay in Baltimore

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles are still fielding trade
offers for shortstop Miguel Tejada, although they remain hopeful he
will be in the starting lineup on Opening Day.

Angered over the team's inability to garner additional talent
this offseason, Tejada has twice expressed his desire to be traded.
The Orioles, however, have no intention of giving away a three-time
All-Star entering the third season of a six-year, $72 million
contract.

"What we're doing is looking for a fair and reasonable
return," executive vice president Mike Flanagan said Saturday.
"If we can't get back what is fair, we're not going to trade him.
He's a guy that's under a long-term contract with us, a targeted
player, a terrific player. We're just not going to do something for
the sake of doing something."

Flanagan, first-year manager Sam Perlozzo and more than a dozen
players showed up at the Convention Center for FanFest, an annual
offseason event that drew more than 10,000 Orioles backers.

Tejada was not in the building, but he was the main topic of
conversation.

"I totally believe we're not getting the whole picture from
Miggy. He's a great kid, he's always been a great kid," Perlozzo
said. "I can't believe the faucet went from on to off just like
that."

Tejada has refused to return phone calls from Perlozzo, but the
manager still has hope that the troubling affair will be rectified
by the time the team holds its first full-squad workout on Feb. 21.

"Sometimes Miggy gets into situations where he says something
he doesn't mean and doesn't know how to get out of it. I'm hoping
this is that kind of situation," Perlozzo said. "I've got to
believe this is going to come out as a positive for the Orioles,
one way or another."

For the Orioles, the best-case scenario would be Tejada backing
off his stance and displaying the same enthusiasm that has enabled
him to become the team leader in the clubhouse, in the dugout and
on the field.

His leadership abilities, as much as his .304 batting average,
26 homers and 98 RBI, are what make Tejada the team's most
valuable player.

"I know he's a little frustrated, but I can't imagine starting
the season without Miguel Tejada," pitcher Bruce Chen said. "He's
going to be very hard to replace. He's a team leader, a good
player. I'm pretty sure he's going to be back. Once spring training
starts, I'm sure he'll be OK."

With Tejada playing a key role, the Orioles bolted into first
place early in 2005 and stayed atop the AL East deep into June.
Baltimore couldn't sustain the lofty pace and tumbled into fourth
place, in part because of injuries and the steroid-related
suspension of first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.

It's hard to determine if Tejada's production tailed off because
of the collapse, but he hit .277 in August and .264 in September
and October. He had only four homers after July 27.

Losing, and Palmeiro's suggestion that his positive steroid test
might have come from a tainted injection of vitamin B-12 provided
by Tejada, clearly disturbed the shortstop.

His ire became more pronounced after the Toronto Blue Jays
fortified their roster while the Orioles were outbid for free agent
Paul Konerko, lost free-agent closer B.J. Ryan and failed to add a
pitcher to a young starting rotation.

For Tejada, the addition of pitching coach Leo Mazzone, catcher
Ramon Hernandez and first baseman Jeff Conine wasn't enough to keep
Baltimore competitive in the AL East.

"I doubt that Miguel thought last year when we went into the
season that we would jump out in front and be 15 games over .500,"
Perlozzo said. "All I ask is, give us a chance. We haven't
finished the roster. We went out and got a catcher, we made a great
effort to get Konerko, we got Leo to come over. We're continuing to
talk."

To a man, the Orioles hope any subsequent trade does not involve
Tejada.

"I expect to see Miggy in an Orioles uniform," outfielder Jay
Gibbons said. "I never thought it would come to this; I was
shocked it happened. I'm hoping we make a couple more moves, make
him happy and get him back here because he's our team leader. He's
one of the top three shortstops in baseball, and quite frankly, we
need him."

Said Perlozzo: "I truly believe if he's still a Baltimore
Oriole, we're going to have a great player. I would still welcome
him in, and expect him to be the player he's always been."