New switch-hitter Tejeda HRs in 1st audition

September 6th, 2020

Rangers rookie infielder has a daunting challenge.

He is 22 years old, has never played above Class A until now and is still trying to learn how to be a switch-hitter. He missed over half of last season at Class A Down East with a left shoulder subluxation.

Now, he's in the Major Leagues and has been told he will get a chance to play ahead of 12-year veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus. This is not going to be easy for the Dominican Republic native, who was supposed to be with Double-A Frisco this season.

“I am blessed to have that opportunity,” Tejeda said. “It’s a hard thing to do, to play in front of somebody like Elvis. I just go out and try to do my best.”

Tejeda didn’t do too bad on Saturday night. He was 2-for-3 with his second big league homer in the Rangers' 5-3 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park.

“I don’t think we need to compare him to anybody,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “He is in the beginning of his career. Sometimes, I don’t think he knows what planet he is on or who he is playing for. I just want him to get the experience and compete.”

Saturday’s loss was the Rangers' fourth in a row, leaving them 13-25. Woodward made it clear before the game that the Rangers will start looking more at their young players, and Tejeda is on that list.

Tejeda can also play second and third base. But the Rangers have Isiah Kiner-Falefa to play third and Nick Solak at second. Shortstop seems to be the best spot for Tejeda, even if that means bumping Andrus.

Andrus is still signed through 2022. It would still be a huge leap if Tejeda were to unseat Andrus based on a one-month audition after having never played above Class A. But the Rangers want to at least get him some experience in the absence of being able to play a full Minor League season, which was canceled due to the pandemic.

“He's pretty raw,” Woodward said. “It's no more than any other guy coming up from [Class] A ball. He probably would have been in Double-A this year. We kind of had a vision of maybe him being here at some point this year. He's learning, though, man. One thing is, he's eager to learn. He asks a lot of questions. He's fearless on the baseball field. That kind of leads to success. He goes out there and lets it rip.”

Andrus told Tejeda before the game to go out and be himself. After, Andrus told him he played a good game and how proud he was of him.

“This game is a hard game to play, and this is a hard league to stay in,” Tejeda said. “I'm going to do whatever it takes to continue to work as hard as I can. I want to stay here.”

The Rangers trailed, 2-1, in the seventh inning before Tejeda, batting with two outs, turned on a sinker from left-hander Justus Sheffield and hit it into the left-field seats for a home run. It was his second this season, crushed 390 feet with a 104 mph exit velocity.

It marked Tejeda's first homer batting right-handed at any level, having only just turned into a switch-hitter at the beginning of the 2019 season. He hit one from the left side in his first Major League game on Aug. 6 in Oakland.

Tejeda spent his four seasons in the Rangers' farm system hitting from the left side, and in 2018, he hit .259/.331/.439 with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs. But he hit just .172 against lefties, so the Rangers asked him to try switch-hitting.

“I remember seeing him last year in the Dominican when he was just learning,” Woodward said. “It’s amazing how far he’s come. To hit a home run is pretty cool.”

Tejeda is only the second Rangers player to homer from both sides within his first five Major League games, joining Ruben Sierra, who did so in 1986.