02/19/08 3:36 PM ET
Tejada arrives at Astros camp
Houston's new All-Star shortstop focused solely on baseball
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
Tejada could be in legal trouble in the near future, or the distant future, or not at all. But as he set up his locker and met his new teammates, the new Houston shortstop appeared to be comfortable in front of the cameras as he addressed several dozen reporters who traveled to Kissimmee specifically to speak with him.
Tejada politely declined to discuss any of his pending off-the-field issues surrounding his alleged involvement with performance-enhancing drugs, saying that his agents are handling those proceedings.
"I can't really talk about that," Tejada said. "It's not my position to talk about that. Right now, my mind is really focused on playing baseball."
But baseball is focused, at least partially, on him. Tejada was identified in the Mitchell Report as having bought steroids and human growth hormone from former Oakland teammate Adam Piatt in 2003, although Piatt also told former Sen. George Mitchell's investigators that he did not know if Tejada actually used the substances.
In January, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into whether Tejada gave false statements to members of the same committee in 2005 about his use of performance-enhancing drugs during an inquiry involving Rafael Palmeiro.
Those issues were sidestepped on Tuesday. Manager Cecil Cooper, general manager Ed Wade and club owner Drayton McLane addressed all 52 players in camp during a 30-minute closed-door meeting, and shortly after, the players hit the fields for the first full-squad workout of Spring Training.
Tejada, who was traded to Houston from Baltimore in a deal that cost the Astros five players, expressed optimism about the upcoming season with his new team. Declining to discuss any bad feelings he may or may not have had in his final years with the struggling Orioles, Tejada said he was thrilled to be with the Astros, a team with a tradition of winning.
"I'm happy because I know this team wants to win," he said. "I want to win. I want to go out there every day, see my teammates and try to get a championship. I want to win. I don't want to just wait until the 15th and 30th to get my check. That's not me.
"I'm just happy to be in a Houston uniform. I know a lot of fans are happy to see me here and I hope I'm going to make a lot of people happy when I play on the field."
But questions remain. Will Tejada have to miss part of the season to deal due to his legal issues? Will this create unwanted drama inside the clubhouse? Who takes over for Tejada if he is called away, or worse yet, charged with perjury?
The Astros have several backup shortstop options, including Tommy Manzella, Geoff Blum, Mark Loretta and Tomas Perez. The other questions have yet to be answered.
"I'm not necessarily confident that it couldn't be a distraction," Lance Berkman said. "It's just not yet. The prognostication of what's going to be a distraction and what's not -- until it actually becomes that, I'm just as content to say, nothing's happened yet."
If Tejada is able to handle the scrutiny, Berkman continued, the team should just follow the shortstop's lead.
"He's the one that's really in a tough spot," Berkman said. "He's had a lot to deal with on an emotional level this offseason: changing teams, having a tragedy in his family and all this stuff on top of that. If he can handle it then the rest of us can certainly support him and be here to help him in any way we can. And we'll be able to handle it, too."
"All we can do is create an environment where he has an opportunity to get ready to go out there and be a key member of our club as our everyday shortstop," Wade said.
Tejada, a four-time All-Star, brings a .287 lifetime batting average and 258 homers to his new team. In 2007 with the Orioles, the shortstop batted .296 with 18 homers and 81 RBIs despite missing a month with a fractured left hand.
The injury, which he suffered after current teammate Doug Brocail hit him with a pitch, ended Tejada's consecutive games played streak at 1,152, the fifth-longest streak of all-time.
Cooper welcomed a healthy Tejada to camp on Tuesday and expressed an admiration for the shortstop's work ethic, even on the first day, when many players are just starting to shake off the offseason cobwebs.
"He looks like a guy that can handle himself out there," Cooper said. "He's a real true pro. I know one of his comments today was, 'I want to work on my defense a little bit every day.' That tells me right there that's a guy who's come here to work. He's ready to do it. I expect him to be the Tejada of old."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.