As Tejada arrives in camp, ex-MVP not talking about steroids allegations

Updated: February 20, 2008, 12:04 PM ET
Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Houston Astros pitcher Woody Williams walked into the clubhouse and saw a swarm of reporters gathered around Miguel Tejada.

"Leave the guy alone!" Williams said with a smile.

No chance.

Tejada arrived at spring training with his new team on Tuesday, and within minutes faced questions about the Mitchell report and an FBI investigation looking into his alleged link to performance-enhancing drugs.

Tejada refused to answer any of them, preferring to discuss baseball and his fresh start with the Astros.

"I can't really talk about that situation," he said. "Right now, I just want to talk about baseball, because that's really my focus."

The Astros acquired the four-time All-Star shortstop from Baltimore on Dec. 12, the day before the Mitchell report was released.

[+] EnlargeMiguel Tejada
AP Photo/David J. PhillipMiguel Tejada declined to discuss the FBI's investigation into his statements about ex-teammate Rafael Palmeiro's testimony before Congress in 2005.

In the report, former teammate Adam Piatt claimed he gave steroids to Tejada in 2003, when they played in Oakland. The report included checks Tejada wrote to Piatt to purportedly pay for steroids. The report said Tejada refused to meet with Mitchell's investigators.

Asked if he could answer the allegations in the report, Tejada said, "No, I can't. Not at all."

A month after the report was released, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Tejada lied in an August 2005 interview about the perjury case of former teammate Rafael Palmeiro.

Palmeiro was suspended for a positive steroid test and suggested that Tejada provided him with a tainted shot of vitamin B12. Tejada denied the claim and he also told federal authorities that he never took performance-enhancers and had no knowledge of other players using or talking about steroids.

The FBI has launched an inquiry and Tejada could get jail time if he's indicted and found guilty.

"I can't really talk about that. It's not my position to talk about that," Tejada said. "Right now, my mind is really focused on just playing baseball."

Tejada seemed comfortable and relaxed on Tuesday as he fielded grounders, took batting practice and chatted with his new teammates. After four losing seasons in Baltimore -- not to mention the mess with Palmeiro -- the 31-year-old Tejada said he was rejuvenated when he found out he'd been traded to Houston.

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"I feel like this year is my first year in the big leagues," the former AL MVP said. "I feel like I'm born again, like somebody just signed me from the Dominican. Every day, I can't wait to see the day coming, to come to the ballpark. I can't wait to show I'm the Miguel Tejada I used to be."

Tejada hit .296 with 18 homers and 81 RBIs in 2007. He's an offensive upgrade from previous shortstop Adam Everett, who batted .232 last season and was signed by Minnesota after Houston didn't pick up his contract.

The Astros stand by the acquisition of Tejada, despite the steroid issues hanging over him. Owner Drayton McLane happily greeted Tejada with a handshake early Tuesday morning.

"I still think it was the right decision," McLane said.

Manager Cecil Cooper spoke to Tejada briefly and avoided mentioning the steroid controversy.

"I just told him, 'Welcome to the Astros,' and that it was all about baseball," Cooper said. "And if I could help him in any way, feel free to ask, just relax and play baseball."

Cooper wasn't concerned about how Tejada would be perceived by the other players in the clubhouse.

"From what I hear, Miguel is a terrific guy," Cooper said. "I'm sure his teammates are going to hook onto him and they're going to get along well. If there's a problem in there, I'll deal with it. But there won't be a problem."

Though the Astros went 73-89 last season, Tejada said he felt a different vibe around his new team than he did with the Orioles, who've languished through 10 consecutive losing seasons.

"The only thing different in Baltimore, is they're rebuilding and here, they're trying to win," Tejada said. "It's totally different."

He'll lobby Cooper to play every day this season and he's eager to turn his focus to baseball -- and only baseball -- as soon as he can.

"I want to play for a winning team, I want to play for something," he said. "I like to play to win every day."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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