Ruben Tejada will be out of commission for the Mets, rehabilitating his injured right quadriceps at the team’s minor-league complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Despite a disappointing start to the season for the oft-scrutinized Tejada, he shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle when he’s ready to come off the 15-day disabled list. It’s way too early for the team to give up on their promising shortstop.
But manager Terry Collins told reporters that there’s no guarantee Tejada would retain the starting job when he’s ready to return if Omar Quintanilla’s performance warrants the role during his absence.
"When he comes back, only the situation will dictate what his status is going to be here," Collins said, as reported by Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. "If Omar Quintanilla is playing tremendous, if he's doing what we know he can do, Ruben is going to have to make sure he's ready to play. But seeing what happened last year at this time when he got hurt – when he pulled the quad it was six weeks – if it's six weeks this time, a lot of things can happen in the next six weeks. So it's tough for me to say where it's at."
Before Tejada was injured during the ninth inning of the Mets’ 9-4 victory over the Yankees Wednesday night, it appeared he was going to be demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas – and for good reason.
Through 50 games, Tejada is hitting .209 with a .267 on-base percentage and a .262 slugging percentage. Tejada, known for his defensive prowess, has committed eight errors, the most in the majors at his position, after making just 12 errors in 112 games last season. And let’s not forget about some of his mental lapses, which includes him inexcusably getting picked off second base during a May 28 Subway Series contest at Citi Field to end the sixth inning.
“I think the beginning of the season for us, it was miserable in Colorado, miserable in Minnesota, and I think those and an effect on him early,” third-base coach Tim Teufel said, as reported by Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. “From here, when you’re not hitting, sometimes you bring your thoughts out to the field. I think there might have been some of that going on.”
That’s exactly what you don’t want, especially from your Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. When you consider that Tejada’s offensive output slightly decreased from 2011 to 2012, it’d be preposterous to think he’s going to be just fine.
However, it’d be even more preposterous to give up on Tejada altogether. He has shown flashes at times of being a more than capable major-league shortstop, and those don’t grow on trees. At 23 years old, Tejada has already shown the ability to field, work a walk and be a consistent hitter, having hit over .280 during two of his first three seasons.
As for Quintanilla, he’s a suitable fill-in, and it’s a rare display of depth for the cash-strapped Mets to be able to tap into their minor-league system and call upon someone with his experience. Since being called up on Thursday, the 31-year-old is off to a fast start with the big league club. In four games, he’s batting .500 (7-for-14) with one home run and one RBI.
But there’s a reason he was in the minor leagues; he’s expendable. Heck, the team called upon him last year when Tejada got hurt, and Quintanilla performed so well that it prompted the Mets to ship him to the Baltimore Orioles in July for cash considerations.
Collins will have a month or so to deal with his frustration. But when Tejada returns to the Mets’ lineup, Collins should welcome him back with open arms. Tejada has too much untapped potential for the Mets to give up on him yet.
Justin Silberman is a journalism and new media major at Towson University, located in Baltimore, and true Mets fan.