For a player that should have no trouble solidifying a starting job at the start of the 2014 season, New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada comes to Spring Training with a whole lot of questions and a whole lot to prove. But that’s what happens when you have a season as disappointing as the season Tejada had in 2013.
Despite Tejada’s terrible season in 2013, it’s important to remember that he’s still just 24 years old. He made his major league debut in 2010 when he was just 20 years old, and after spending significant chunks of 2010 and 2011 in the big leagues, Tejada was the Mets’ every day shortstop in 2012, succeeding Jose Reyes. While it was a difficult task replacing a player like Reyes, Tejada had a good showing in his first season as a full-time starter, hitting .289/.333/.351 while playing steady defense.
But in 2013, Tejada didn’t come to Spring Training early the way manager Terry Collins wanted him to. He also came to camp out of shape, and it showed in his performance. Tejada struggled through the first two months of the season, and right when the Mets were ready to demote him, he suffered an injury. But even after he recovered from that injury, the Mets kept Tejada in triple-A until September, and when he did make it back to the majors, he soon broke his leg, ending his season.
Thus, Tejada enters Spring Training this year with a lot to prove. However, because he’s only 24 and proved in 2012 that he can handle an every day job in the big leagues, the Mets are giving him another chance. The team did not go out of its way to sign Stephen Drew this offseason, and some members of the Mets’ front office did voice support for Tejada during the offseason and believe that he’ll be able to bounce back this year. However, Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson remain skeptical.
In Tejada’s defense, after healing his broken leg, he spent much of the offseason with other Mets players at a strength, conditioning and nutrition camp in Michigan, which shows that he took the offseason seriously and wants to redeem himself for his pitiful performance last season. After hitting .202/.259/.260 and playing questionable defense in 2013, Tejada has a lot to make up for in 2014.
The silver lining for Tejada is that the team didn’t sign Drew, and so he enters the spring as the starting shortstop. No one outside of Omar Quintanilla, who replaced Tejada as the Mets’ shortstop for much of last year, is a serious threat to take the job away from him. However, if Tejada continues to play the way he did last season, he’ll take the job away from himself, so there is a lot of pressure on Tejada to perform this spring.