Tejada arrives at camp, apologizes to teammates
If any of them harbored any resentment over his offseason criticism of the team's front office and his subsequent request to be traded, it certainly wasn't evident Tuesday, when the Orioles gathered for their first full-squad workout of spring training.
"That's in the past. He says he wants to stay here," center fielder Luis Matos said after embracing the All-Star shortstop. "I don't expect him to say he's sorry."
Oh, but Tejada did just that.
He said he told the Latin players, "I felt really embarrassed, because I'm not that kind of man. I'm not the kind of person that makes some trouble. Everything is over. Everything is straight."
Later during the 15-minute interview, he said, "I feel a little upset, people telling me that I don't love the players. I love the players, I love the team, I love everybody here. Everybody knows I made a mistake."
Tejada jolted the organization on Dec. 8 when he criticized the direction of the team and hoped for a "change of scenery."
"I felt a little bit upset when I saw everybody just picking players up. At the same time, I don't see the Orioles getting any players," he recalled. "That's why I felt upset in that way."
Tejada also pointed out that a reporter caught him at a bad time.
"That was a day when a lot of people came to my house before that happened. They didn't let me spend some time with my kids when they go to sleep," he said. "So in my mind I was confused and that's why I come up and say I want to be traded."
Appearing eager to put the entire mess behind him, Tejada also insisted that he never returned calls from manager Sam Perlozzo because he didn't get the messages on his phone while in the Dominican Republic.
Tejada eventually rescinded the trade request, and now he and the entire organization are eager to lay the matter to rest.
"Miggy and I had a little talk. We pretty much said what was in the past was in the past," Perlozzo said. "We want to move forward. He felt a little bad that things got blown out of proportion the way they did, and I got the impression he just wanted to forget about it and make it go away."
Toward that end, Tejada decided against his original plan to address the team as a whole.
"I think everybody understands what was going on," Tejada said. "I just told Sam I don't want to bring that to the clubhouse."
Tejada won the AL MVP award in 2002 with Oakland and hit 27 homers with 106 RBI in 2003 for the Athletics before signing a $72 million, six-year contract with the Orioles in 2004. He quickly established himself as the team leader and has never missed a game during his two years in Baltimore.
But his stay began to sour last season, when then-teammate Rafael Palmeiro implied that his positive test for steroid use might have stemmed from an injection of the B-12 vitamin provided by Tejada -- who said Tuesday that he won't use B-12 again.
The Orioles tumbled into fourth place in the AL East in the second half of the season, in part because Tejada hit .276 with seven homers and 36 RBI compared to .329 with 19 home runs and 62 RBI in the first half.
"I hurt my shoulder a little bit when I slide into home plate. I didn't say nothing to my trainer. But that's not an excuse," he said. "I just had a bad second half last year. We all had a bad second half."
After reaching the playoffs with Oakland for four straight seasons and then enduring two losing seasons in Baltimore, he'd had enough and asked to be traded. But he said his 7-year-old daughter, Alexa, persuaded him to stay.
"I got my house in Baltimore, my kids love Baltimore," Tejada said. "When they find out that I was going to get traded, my daughter came to me and said, 'Daddy, why do you want to get traded? What about my school?'
"And I said, 'Baby, don't worry about it, I am going to stay in Baltimore. If they want me to stay, I am going to stay because I don't want to go anyway,'" he said.
His teammates appreciated his decision to remain with the Orioles -- and his willingness to speak up in an effort to get the club to improve.
"What do you prefer?" Matos said. "A guy who's worried about the team and wants it to get better, or a guy who's going to be here six years and get in his pocket $72 million and not care about winning? You can't take it like he doesn't like the Orioles and doesn't want to be here. That's not true."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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