Tejada makes triumphant return to Mets

Veteran infielder aims to shake memory of injury in 2015 NLDS

August 15th, 2019

ATLANTA -- chuckled when asked. No, he has not spoken to Chase Utley since the slide -- “I never talk to him anymore,” Tejada said. No, he and Utley have not made amends. That slide, which resulted in a broken leg for Tejada and the presumed end of his time with the Mets, is a chapter of Tejada’s career that he’d sooner forget.

Fracturing his right fibula in 2015 National League Division Series Game 2 wound up being Tejada’s final act with the Mets until Tuesday, when the team selected him from Triple-A Syracuse to replace injured second baseman , who exited Tuesday's 5-3 loss to Atlanta with a mild left hamstring strain. At SunTrust Park, Tejada was back in the starting lineup in Wednesday's 6-4 loss to the Braves in his familiar No. 11 Mets jersey, which he wore from 2010-15. Tejada went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

“It took a lot to take it out of my mind because it was a hard moment, a special moment in the playoffs,” Tejada said. “It was a hard moment, but finally I turned the page and I feel really good, healthy, 100 percent with that leg. It’s fine now.”

Following Utley’s takeout slide at Dodger Stadium, which resulted in Tejada being rolled off the field on a cart, Mets players were incensed -- though they beat the Dodgers in five games to ease some of the sting, with Tejada receiving a standing ovation at Citi Field. For Tejada, those good vibes were short-lived; the following spring, due to a crowded infield featuring newcomers Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, the Mets released Tejada.

He bounced from there to the Cardinals, Giants, Yankees and Orioles organizations, appearing in 77 more big league games but none since 2017. Still seeking a job late this spring, he was re-signed by the Mets for a measure of infield depth.

The result was precisely what they hoped. Playing three different infield positions, Tejada hit .337/.412/.486 over two Minor League levels, prompting Mets officials to consider promoting him on multiple occasions. McNeil’s injury finally forced the issue.

"He's put the ball in play. He's had a compact swing, professional approach and he's done all the little things right,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “We believe that he can execute game plans, that he can bunt, that he can hit and run. But overall, he's put the bat to the ball, and he's gotten rewarded for it.”

With McNeil’s absence only expected to last 10 days, Tejada’s stay with the Mets -- he’ll platoon at second base with Joe Panik for as long as McNeil is sidelined -- may be brief. But it nonetheless represents a homecoming for the 29-year-old, who initially joined the organization in 2006.

“It’s huge for me, because this is the organization where I was born,” Tejada said. “They gave me the opportunity the first time. Finally, I’m back here to do my job at a good point, in a good race. I’m trying to help the team to get there.”

Lowrie progressing
Jed Lowrie’s season-long purgatory may be nearing an end. The veteran infielder took live batting practice Wednesday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., drawing ever nearer to Minor League rehab games.

Asked if he expects Lowrie to play for the Mets this season, Van Wagenen answered emphatically.

“It’s absolutely our hope and expectation that he can,” Van Wagenen said.

Sidelined early in Spring Training with what the Mets deemed a minor left calf injury, Lowrie has since battled issues up and down the left side of his body, in addition to a right calf strain. The latter is what’s still bothering Lowrie, whom the Mets signed to a two-year, $20 million contract last winter.

"His left side's been strong,” Van Wagenen said. “I feel like he's over the hump with the left side, and the right side has made progress, too. So we're encouraged."

And Nimmo, too
Further along in his rehab is outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who has not played since May 20 due to a bulging cervical disc and the effects of whiplash. Nimmo also took live batting practice on Wednesday, and he could begin a rehab assignment “as early as the next few days,” according to Van Wagenen.

So long, Adeiny
The Mets placed infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, whom they designated for assignment last week, on release waivers. Hechavarria, who hit .204 with a .611 OPS in 60 games for the Mets, is now a free agent. He fell one game shy of hitting a $1 million roster bonus.