Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Tejada apologizes to Astros
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- While Alex Rodriguez was addressing his use of performance-enhancing drugs in front of a national media contingent Tuesday, Miguel Tejada made a quiet apology to his teammates at the Houston Astros' training camp.
It's the first time Tejada faced his teammates since he pleaded guilty in federal court last week to lying to congressional investigators in 2005 when they asked if he had conversations with players about performance-enhancing drugs.
"It's part of this country. It's part of my life," said Tejada. "I apologized to my family, I apologized to everyone around me in baseball. Today I stood up and apologized to the entire team."
A half-dozen reporters watched -- a little more than an hour drive from the Yankees complex Tampa -- as the 34-year-old Tejada drove up in a black Hummer and was greeted with a hug from closer Jose Valverde. The shortstop then went through physicals and attended a team meeting that included owner Drayton McLane and took place behind a closed clubhouse door.
McLane, general manager Ed Wade and manager Cecil Cooper each offered encouraging words. Wade said players offered a round of applause after the apology by Tejada, who faces prison time and deportation but is expected to avoid both.
"It means a lot to me," Tejada later told a media gathering only slightly larger than the one that watched him arrive. "That's going to make me work harder and harder in spring training to make me have a better season. Everything is behind and now I'm happy to be here."
First baseman Lance Berkman said it was the Tejada he remembered.
"He's a standup guy and like he told us, he made a mistake, he's sorry, he's ready to move on and we really couldn't care less," Berkman said. "We love Miggy and we're glad he's here, and you just want to get on down the road."
Tejada admitted that he bought human growth hormone while with the Oakland A's, but said he threw the drugs away. Last year's Mitchell report included copies of checks allegedly written by Tejada to Oakland teammate Adam Piatt in March 2003 for $3,100 and $3,200.
On Tuesday, Tejada wouldn't answer when asked again whether he used HGH or steroids. McLane stood firmly behind Tejada's assertion that he didn't.
"I think we have to trust people," McLane said. "I think if he was guilty of [taking steroids] he would certainly say so."
McLane said he told Tejada to "keep his chin up" last week after the shortstop pleaded guilty in Washington, then flew to Houston for an emotional confession in front of reporters.
Signed as a 17-year-old by the A's in 1993, Tejada rose to stardom as a five-time All-Star who was the 2002 AL MVP. He has a .286 career batting average with 271 home runs and 1,099 RBIs.
Tejada said he knows he has to work to rebuild support in the United States and back home.
"Everybody [knows] why I feel guilty," Tejada said. "Those kids in the Dominican know what kind of person I am, what kind of player I am, how hard I work on my life."
McLane defended the team's decision to send Matt Albers, Luke Scott, Dennis Sarfate, Troy Patton, and Michael Costanzo to Baltimore for Tejada after the 2007 season.
"With all the controversy, we're sorry that that occurred, but at the time he was one of the best players in baseball," McLane said.
Notes Power-hitting left fielder Carlos Lee was a no-show Tuesday, the deadline for players to report in time for the first full workout. Lee said in a statement he simply mixed up the dates. Manager Cecil Cooper said he understands the mishap, but that Lee will face consequences. "I might give him something. Make him run 'til he gets tired or whatever. We'll figure something out," Cooper said. Sunday is the mandatory reporting date. Lee missed the last two months of last season with a broken finger but still hit .314 with 28 home runs and 100 RBIs. He has been cleared for all drills this year.