Ruben Tejada, who was the Opening Day shortstop for the New York Mets, is working his way back from injury, making his first rehab appearance with triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday night. But when Tejada is deemed ready to return to the big leagues, he should not return to the starting lineup.
Instead, Omar Quintanilla should remain the Mets’ everyday shortstop.
Before getting injured, Tejada was on the verge of getting demoted and being replaced by Quintanilla, so the injury did what the Mets were about to do anyway, which saved Tejada from the embarrassment of being demoted and gave the Mets an upgrade at shortstop.
Not only was Tejada struggling before his injury, but Quintanilla has also earned the right to remain the starter. Quintanilla has been prone to extended slumps and hitless streaks during his month with the Mets, but he’s also had a multitude of multi-hit games, and he does maintain a solid average and a surprisingly good slugging percentage for a shortstop who doesn’t possess a ton of size.
Most importantly, Quintanilla has been an asset defensively for the Mets, an area where Tejada has struggled this season. The recent string of success that the Mets have experienced has been, in part, fueled by great defensive play, and Quintanilla has been in the middle of that.
With his play on the field, Quintanilla has earned the right to remain the everyday shortstop, and it should be his job to lose. Tejada, meanwhile, should have to earn a promotion back to the big leagues with his play at triple-A. Even then, Tejada should not usurp the starting shortstop job if Quintanilla continues to play well.
However, the Mets could use Tejada as their backup middle infielder as they’ve been playing without a true backup at shortstop all season, and that’s a role he may be better suited to play in the big leagues.
Tejada’s return from injury should mean nothing to the Mets until he starts to perform in triple-A and proves that he’s ready to come back to MLB. The Mets have done well with Quintanilla as their shortstop, and that’s the way it should stay.