Is Ruben Tejada Back on New York Mets' Good Side?

Michael MandelkernContributor IIIApril 9, 2014

Ruben Tejada at the plate.
Ruben Tejada at the plate.David Goldman

Ruben Tejada looks like his 2012 self to start the New York Mets' season. The starting shortstop can hold his job if he keeps it up.

Coming off an abysmal, injury-shortened 2013 season and brutal 2014 spring training, Tejada is trying to put the past behind him. Each day without botching a routine play or looking listless at the plate helps his cause. 

His reliability on defense has been under scrutiny after committing eight errors in just 55 starts last season and four errors in 2014 spring training.

Tejada has looked more confident in the infield so far and in his at-bats. As of April 8, Tejada is hitting .286 with a .400 on-base percentage. He has hit in six of his first seven games of the season.

Atlanta Braves starter Aaron Harang issued Tejada a walk on April 8 in his first at-bat. He watched three straight balls, a called strike and then ball four to send him to first base in the third inning. His good eye and patience paid off without swinging.

A base on balls from Eric Young Jr. advanced Tejada to second base, he moved to third base after a deep Daniel Murphy fly out and ultimately ran home following a wild pitch by Harang. 

Travis d’Arnaud hit a double in the seventh inning, and Tejada drove him in on a line-drive single to center field. He came home later in the inning on an Eric Young Jr. single.

Going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Tejada had a walk, hit, RBI and two runs scored. But he committed an error on a routine ground ball that allowed Braves baserunners on first and second base with Jason Heyward stepping to the plate.

Can Tejada be trusted? He fielded a ground ball cleanly in the sixth inning, but he does not get much benefit of the doubt. 2013 was a lost year for him, and he has not had great enough success in his career to overlook his shortcomings.

His error was not costly, but it could have been. The Braves were provided with a free out and could have capitalized. If the inning had gotten out of hand, Tejada would have been ridiculed. 

He redeemed himself in the eighth inning with another RBI single, this time going the other way. One encouraging sign early in the season is his line-drive approach. Tejada has virtually no power and should not be flying out very often.

In the ninth inning, Tejada threw out a runner at third base on a force play. It was not especially difficult, but the error earlier in the game darkened the cloud of doubt already hovering over him.

Still, Tejada had an overall strong day at the plate and in the field on April 8. The error was a blemish that would not be as repulsive if he had not been so ineffective in the recent past.

The only way for him to improve his reputation is to be consistent over an extended period of time. Tejada deserves credit for his good performance Tuesday, but the error cannot be overlooked. He must re-establish himself one game at a time.