02/06/2004 5:35 PM ET
Notes: Tejada stays to play
Shortstop committed to winning Carribean title
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- The Baltimore Orioles signed Miguel Tejada to a six-year, $72 million contract to play shortstop, then announced that Tejada would be the headlining player at the team's FanFest this Saturday, Feb. 7.
|Miguel Tejada hit a home run for Licey against Venezuela on Tuesday. (Andres Leighton/AP)
On Friday at the Caribbean Series, Tejada said he won't be anywhere near Baltimore on Saturday. He's staying to play out the remainder of the Series with his Licey Tigers of the Dominican Republic.
Licey needed to win its Thursday-night game against Venezuela to wrap up the title in its home park of Estadio Quisqueya, but Tejada's team lost, 5-3, and must try again Friday night against Puerto Rico.
If the Dominicans lose Friday night's game against the winless Puerto Ricans, they will play a tiebreaking championship game Saturday against the winner of the early Friday Venezuela-Mexico game.
"I would have a pain deep in my soul if our team collapsed and didn't win the title," Tejada said Friday.
"My commitments to my country are first. Also, I want to win this Caribbean Series title in my country and I do not want to miss this moment."
The Orioles, while upset that their biggest-name offseason acquisition won't be appearing, said they understood the situation.
"He's playing for the championship of his county," team spokesman Bill Stetka said. "We tried to work something out but weren't able to."
Baltimore's executive vice president, Jim Beattie, expanded on Stetka's comments.
"The way it developed, it's interesting," Beattie said. "We always knew there was a possibility (that Tejada would stay in the Dominican). He didn't start playing until a couple of weeks ago. Having gone to these things, this is a huge affair. From what I understand, the president of the country called him last night."
Tejada said he booked a flight back to the U.S. for Monday morning, meaning even if the Dominicans win Friday night and wrap up the title, he will stay and celebrate with his teammates and countrymen in what is expected to be a raucous Saturday parade through the streets of Santo Domingo.
Beattie said that Tejada has expressed remorse to the Orioles fans who won't be able to meet and greet him before the team heads off to Spring Training.
"He is going to record a message and have something to say about it," Beattie said. "He's torn. He is a guy that's not trying to get out of this obligation. We're not going to force him to come out for this. We'd never be able to sign another player out of the Dominican. It's important for us to make our players happy."
Enrique Rojas, a sportswriter based in Santo Domingo, said the decision comes as no surprise considering the popularity of baseball -- and Tejada -- in his native country.
"He really has no choice in this situation with all the Dominican fans," Rojas said. "And he would never consider not playing, because he wants to be here in his homeland when his team wins."
Venezuela hamstrung: The Aragua Tigers of Venezuela lost another player Friday when Alex Cabrera flew back to Venezuela because of a groin injury he aggravated Wednesday.
Slugger Magglio Ordoñez revealed late Thursday night that he was leaving the team because of a Friday business commitment in Miami.
One Venezuelan star who agreed to stay in the Dominican Republic is Anaheim Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who approached Aragua manager Buddy Bailey and told him he was available to pitch in Friday's game against Mexico and in Saturday's tie-breaker against the Dominicans, if necessary.
Rodriguez had pitched in four of the Venezuelans' five games here, notching saves in the last two.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter Gary Washburn contributed to this report, which was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.