Tejada focuses on Caribbean Series

February 1, 2008 8:09:09 PM PST
Miguel Tejada has had a tumultuous offseason.First, the star shortstop was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Houston Astros one day before he was implicated in the Mitchell Report on doping in baseball.

Then, during the Dominican Winter League playoffs, his older brother died in a motorcycle accident on Jan. 15 -- the same day Congress asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Tejada made false statements to House committee staff when he was interviewed in connection with the Rafael Palmeiro perjury case in 2005. The FBI opened a preliminary investigation.

Tejada, the 2002 AL MVP with Oakland, wants to forget his grief and legal trouble and focus on what he knows best: baseball. He'll try to do that starting Saturday in the Caribbean Series as his Cibao Eagles defend the regional title against the champions from the Venezuelan and Mexican winter leagues, and the Dominican Republic's Licey Tigers.

Puerto Rico didn't participate in the Caribbean Series this year because the island suspended its winter league tournament due to economic problems among its teams.

"Thank God my job is to play baseball," Tejada said Friday during the Eagles' final practice before their series opener Saturday against Mexico's Obregon Yaquis. "I lost a brother, it's hard, but I'm still strong. I'm still standing."

Tejada wouldn't talk about his legal issues, but said playing baseball helps him forget his troubles these days.

The slugger is revered in Santiago (located 93 miles north of Santo Domingo), where the Eagles play, and fans there give him unconditional support.

"It helps me a lot, because that way my mind is on what I do best, which is play baseball," he said. "As a baseball player, the support of the fans and my teammates is what keeps me going."

The Eagles have a strong lineup anchored by Tejada, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal and Cincinnati Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion.

The Licey Tigers, who lost in the Dominican league final against the Eagles, have strong pitching with Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol, who struck out 22 in 12 scoreless innings in the Dominican Republic.

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