The Orioles still would have signed free-agent shortstop Miguel Tejada in 2003 even if they had known his correct age, a club official said yesterday. But it probably would have been a shorter deal if they had known he was about to turn 30.
"I don't think it matters being a couple years," said Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan, who, along with Jim Beattie, signed Tejada to a six-year, $72 million contract in December 2003. "That still would have been considered his prime."
But, "we probably wouldn't have signed him for so long," Flanagan said.
Tejada, whose birth date had been listed in media guides as May 25, 1976, informed Houston Astros management that he was currently 33, not 31, and that his actual birth date was May 25, 1974, the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday.
That means the Orioles signed him when he was 29, not 27 and the Oakland Athletics discovered him in the Dominican Republic at age 19, not 17.
"I'm a poor kid that wanted to be a professional big leaguer," Tejada, whom the Orioles traded to Houston in December for five players, told the Chronicle. "I was thinking that was the only way that I could help my family."
Age-fixing is not an uncommon practice with foreign players, especially before the heightened scrutiny of work visas prompted by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Flanagan said there had been rumors about Tejada's age, but nothing was ever confirmed. At least until an ESPN reporter presented a copy of Tejada's Dominican birth certificate to him this week, and Tejada then talked about it with Astros general manager Ed Wade.
In the past decade, the Orioles have had two other players, pitcher Leslie Brea and shortstop Ed Rogers, who falsified their ages and were several years older than the club originally believed.
Reliever Jim Johnson had one big league appearance in each of his past two seasons. This year he has already had three, and had allowed no runs and two hits in 5 1/3 innings going into last night. The difference? A better delivery and a livelier fastball.
"His fastball is no longer straight. He's got some life on it at the end," manager Dave Trembley said. "He's done something to shorten up his stride, and I think that has really helped his command of his pitches."
Loewen holds own
Trembley said he wasn't pleased that Adam Loewen allowed five walks in his start Wednesday, but his ability to hang on for six innings allowed Trembley to stay away from using Brian Burres, tomorrow's projected starter, in long relief.
Trembley wants Loewen to attack hitters when he is ahead in the count, but thinks, "by May or June, this guy may be back where he's supposed to be."
Around the horn
Luke Scott was moved from sixth to fifth in the order. ... Trembley said infielder Freddie Bynum (right knee) started playing in extended spring training Monday. ... Country singer Kenny Chesney, at Camden Yards as a guest of Kevin Millar, wore a No. 7 Orioles jersey and took batting practice.