Tejada rescinds trade demand, will stay with O's
BALTIMORE -- Miguel Tejada rescinded his demand to be traded by the Orioles, telling team officials during a phone call Saturday that he's willing to help Baltimore become a contender in the AL East.
Angered over the Orioles' inability to garner additional talent this offseason, Tejada twice expressed his desire to be traded, the last time on Dec. 29. But he backed off that stance during a conversation with teammate Melvin Mora and vice president Jim Duquette.
"Miguel said all he wanted was for the team to improve. He wants to win," Duquette said. "He doesn't know how that got blown out of proportion, and he feels terrible the way it played out."
After Tejada expressed the desire for "a change of scenery" in early December, the Orioles began fielding trade requests for the three-time All-Star. But the Orioles, who signed Tejada to a six-year, $72 million contract in December 2003, had no intention of merely giving him away.
"What we're doing is looking for a fair and reasonable return," executive vice president Mike Flanagan said earlier Saturday. "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."
Now, the Orioles intend to do nothing.
"This is the first time we heard this directly from him," Duquette said. "We're elated that he's chosen to stay. We're all committed to improving the team, and it's easier to do it with Miguel than without him."
Tejada in recent weeks refused to return calls from Flanagan, Duquette and first-year manager Sam Perlozzo. But on Saturday he told Mora, one of his closest friends on the team, that he wanted to clear the air.
The announcement came on a day the Orioles drew more than 10,000 fans to the Convention Center for FanFest, an annual offseason event attended by Flanagan, Duquette, Perlozzo and more than a dozen players.
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 before the conversation between Duquette and Tejada. "I can't believe the faucet went from on to off just like that."
Perlozzo expressed hope that Tejada would be in attendance at the first full-squad workout on Feb. 21, and now it appears that he will get his wish.
"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."
The best-case scenario for Baltimore was 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 Orioles' 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. But Baltimore couldn't keep up the 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 batted .277 in August and .264 in September and October. He hit 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 this winter 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.
Adding pitching coach Leo Mazzone, catcher Ramon Hernandez, reliever LaTroy Hawkins and first baseman Jeff Conine was not enough to ease Tejada's frustration. But now that Flanagan has a content Tejada on board, he can focus on a different kind of deal.
"It hasn't made us work harder," Flanagan said, "it's made it harder to work."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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