Free Agent Departure Of Reyes Opens Door For Tejada

NEW YORK—General manager Sandy Alderson was not ready to concede that Jose Reyes would be playing for another team in 2012. But if Reyes does depart as a free agent, then Alderson is ready to admit that his successor already is on the roster.

Ruben Tejada already has logged 62 starts at shortstop in his two-year big league career, and he stands poised to assume the position on a full-time basis if Reyes departs.

Such a succession would put pressure on Tejada, a 22-year-old Panamanian, to prove he's capable of filling the shoes of one of the franchise's most popular players as well as the reigning National League batting champion.

Tejada shrugged off talk of pressure late in the season, confident that he can play every day, while also admitting that he will not be Reyes.

Tejada spent the early portion of the 2011 season with Triple-A Buffalo, playing every day at shortstop but batting just .246/.314/.353 in 207 at-bats. When called to New York in May and June, he filled in mostly at second base.

He didn't earn regular play at short until July, when Reyes missed time with a hamstring injury.

Tejada, though, saved his best work for late in the season. In 44 games after his Aug. 8 callup, he batted .319/.384/.400 with 11 doubles and a 14-to-17 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 160 at-bats.

"I think public perception is important to take into account," Alderson said of the prospect of Tejada succeeding Reyes, "but it can't be determinative of one's strategy or approach.

"I think we all have to recognize that certain players are more important to a fan base than others. Is that a factor? Yes, it's a factor."

Still, Alderson said that if Reyes leaves he could see the team returning the same position players intact, and with Tejada at shortstop. "It's possible," he said. "On the other hand, we could make several changes."


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