On June 4 the Orioles announced they purchased shortstop Ruben Tejada from the New York Yankees. Not viewed with much significance at the time, Tejada replaced all-glove, no-bat Paul Janish as the squad’s utility infielder. Janish spent just two and a half weeks on the team after Ryan Flaherty hit the DL.
In fact, this small-print Tejada transaction resulted in the Orioles’ adding a legitimate major league shortstop without giving up any players in return. Dan Duquette took a page from Earl Weaver who placed a high priority on having a veteran bench and called it “deep depth.”
And that depth was needed just two weeks after Tejada joined the team.
Starting shortstop J.J. Hardy fractured his wrist on a pitch from the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn, opening the door for Tejada to play nearly every day.
No stranger to playing shortstop, Tejada played 307 games there with the New York Mets in 2012, 2014 and 2015. Providing reliable defense at a key position, Tejada gave up just 25 errors in that stretch.
He has continued to prove he can make the necessary plays from the infield’s most challenging position, making just two errors in his 32 games for the Birds this year. His .979 fielding percentage in 2017 and career .975 isn’t quite at the .983-level like Hardy, but it’s major-league solid. The AL average fielding percentage at shortstop this year is .974.
But what would the Orioles expect from Tejada’s bat? He was coming off a disappointing 2016, playing in only 36 major league games after spending the offseason recovering from a broken leg he suffered on Chase Utley’s infamous and rule-changing take-out slide during the 2015 playoffs.
During the ’12, ’14 and ’15 seasons when Tejada was the Mets’ primary shortstop, he produced offensively better than you might expect – hitting .265 with a .335 OBP. He won’t hit a lot of home runs or steal bases and his days as a number-one shortstop are in the past, but Tejada is more than serviceable in the backup role.
So how’s he doing filling in for Hardy?
After a slow start, Tejada has found his stroke in the month of July, hitting .300/.354/.367/.721. During this 19-game span, he's tied for second on the team with four doubles and is fourth in runs scored with 13. The team is 7-4 in those July games when Tejada scores. His overall 2017 numbers are .250/.306/.310/.616.
The Sun’s Eduardo Encina reports that Hardy is scheduled to see a hand and wrist specialist on Monday. J.J. hopes to begin strength training soon thereafter on way to a possible mid-August return.
Until then, Tejada is unlikely to keep up his impressive July pace but he is keeping the area between third and second sufficiently warm until Hardy comes back.