KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Miguel Tejada has already talked with Astros manager Cecil Cooper about wanting to play every day. Not exactly shocking that a guy who played in 1,152 consecutive games - the fifth-longest streak in baseball history - would want to make that clear before joining his new teammates on the field for the first time yesterday.
"I know I lost my streak last year, but I want to continue as if I still have it," said Tejada, whose streak was broken when he was hit by a pitch from Doug Brocail, now a teammate in Houston. "I love baseball and I want to be in the lineup every day. I can start a new streak here."
Of course, playing every day could become a moot topic if Tejada's legal issues get the better of him. He was cited in the Mitchell Report for buying steroids and human growth hormone from former Oakland teammate Adam Piatt in 2003. While Piatt was unable to confirm to Mitchell that Tejada actually used the drugs, his name is forever stained.
In addition, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked the US Department of Justice to investigate whether Tejada made false statements to the committee in 2005 concerning his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The Astros have taken much criticism for acquiring Tejada in a trade just one day before the Mitchell Report was released. It was no secret that they had coveted him and felt they needed an offensive weapon at the shortstop position after years of using weak-hitting Adam Everett. That's what they got, but they also got a world of trouble if Tejada has to miss stretches of the season.
Tejada, after arriving in Astros camp yesterday, politely declined on attorneys' advice to answer questions about the Mitchell Report allegations and Justice Department investigation. But he was upbeat about the trade that brought him to Houston and sent several Astros prospects to Baltimore.
"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 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."
Tejada, who hit .296 with 18 homers and 81s RBI for the Orioles last season, said one of the biggest selling points with Houston was playing shortstop; other interested teams, including the Dodgers and Phillies, wanted him to shift to third base. Tejada said he would reward the Astros by improving his defense.
"I want people to see the kind of player I am," said Tejada, a four-time All-Star and a .287 career hitter with 258 homers. "I'm going to work hard on my defense every day I'm here because I want to keep playing shortstop. That's my natural position and I don't feel I'm ready to move from there.
"That's why I was so happy about this deal, because they believed in me. I'd like to decide when I need to move my position and when my body tells me I can't play the position anymore.
"I feel like I'm born again. I feel like I did the first time I left the Dominican to play in the United States."
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org