Ball Star

Tejada has been a revelation for Royals

Updated: 2013-08-05T21:56:59Z

By PETE GRATHOFF

The Kansas City Star

This is going to sound odd, but I kind of like it when Miguel Tejada hits a ball to an opposing infielder.

Seeing him hit home runs is better, of course, but when Tejada grounds out, he never jogs to first. It's always full-steam ahead, and that's worth appreciating. And, really, there's a lot to like about Tejada, who is in his first season with the Royals.

Michael Engel at the Kings of Kauffman blog recently wrote an apology to Tejada for his criticism of the Royals when they signed him during the off-season. I'm guessing others had doubts as well.

While Tejada, 39, was a former MVP and six-time All-Star with playoff experience, he also lied to Congress when it was investigating performance-enhancing drug use in 2009 and had not played in the majors since 2011 when he hit .239 with the Giants.

But what the Royals saw was a veteran player that others in the clubhouse could look up to, because Tejada had been through good times and bad.

“I’m going to try to help this team and their younger players. I’m so happy because this is what I was aiming for, a chance to get back to the majors,” Tejada told the Associated Press after he signed.

Tejada is a multi-millionaire who didn't need to come back to baseball as a utility player, but he wanted to be around the game so badly that he was willing to ride the bench.

Funny thing, but Tejada is playing so well that Royals manager Ned Yost said he's going to keep Tejada in the lineup. That seems like a no-brainer because second basemen Chris Getz, Johnny Giavotella and Elliot Johnson all have failed to hit even .210 this year. But Tejada is not a default choice; his slash line this season is: .304/.331/.406. He's earned it.

On the Royals' 8-1 road trip that concluded Sunday in New York, Tejada batted .387. Since the start of July, the Royals are 12-5 in games that Tejada starts and he has a .344 batting average in that span.

Since June 1, the Royals are 17-8 when Tejada starts.

Think back to June 1. Few expected the Royals to turn around their season following an 8-20 record in May. The change in hitting coaches certainly helped, but was Tejada also a calming influence in the clubhouse? I can't say for sure, but he probably helped. But I do know that he never quit playing hard and that's the kind of thing that his teammates surely noticed.

That's just why the Royals signed him. Tejada's recent hot streak at the plate is a bonus. That's resulted in more hits and less ground outs, which means fewer opportunities to watch him bust his butt down the line.

But I'm guessing no one is complaining about that.

To reach Pete Grathoff, send email to pgrathoff@kcstar.com

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