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SoxProspects News

August 5, 2010 at 7:00 AM

Q&A with Oscar Tejeda

After two disappointing seasons in Greenville, Oscar Tejeda’s 2010 season could be described using any number of baseball clichés: “breakout”, “comeback”, perhaps even “redemption”. From 2008-2009, Tejeda hit .259/.306/.340 with 7 home runs in 808 plate appearances while playing shortstop for the Drive, not the numbers one hopes for from a player once (perhaps unfairly) compared to Alfonso Soriano. However, a pair of changes in scenery – a promotion to Salem and move to second base – seem to have unlocked the his potential, as through August 3, Tejeda is hitting .311/.348/.460 with 8 home runs in 431 plate appearances. He was the lone Sox prospect named to Baseball America’s midseason list of top performers at each position in the minors, earning honorable mention at second. Oscar took the time to chat with SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield before a recent game in Lynchburg.

Chris Hatfield: We’ve seen great improvement from you this season. You’re one of the Carolina League leaders in batting average after a couple of seasons in Greenville where the stats weren’t really there. What do you think has been the biggest reason for your jump forward this year?
Oscar Tejeda: I was young the last two years (for the league). This year, when I go to the plate, I’ve got an idea, I go up looking for my pitch. The last two years, I’d go to the plate and swing at any pitch.

CH: So your approach has changed mostly – is that something you’ve consciously worked on, or is that something that has slowly evolved, that you’ve just gotten used to?
OT: Well last year, I had my high leg kick. This year, I take a little step, so I recognize the pitch better. I worked on that in (Fall) Instructional League.

CH: Another thing we’ve seen is your increased power. You had eight career home runs the last three years, and this year you’ve already got another eight. Is that from you getting stronger from working out, or just filling out your body?
OT: I think I’ve gotten stronger. This year I’m bigger, I’ve put on weight. My bat feels quicker than last year.

CH: This year you’re also hitting in a really good lineup. Guys like Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway, the list goes on and on of guys in the Salem lineup hitting well this year. Has that helped you as a hitter, knowing there are other good hitters in the lineup with you?
OT: Yeah, that’s helped me a lot. With a guy like Lavarnway, he goes to home plate looking for one pitch, so if he doesn’t see it, he doesn’t swing. So one day I said, ‘hey, Lavarnway, when you go to home plate, what pitch are you going to hit?’ And he said ‘I’m going to look for my pitch.’

CH: The other big change for you this year has been the transition from shortstop to second base. How have you adjusted there, both in the field, and in general, are you comfortable there?
OT: Early in the season, I was a little uncomfortable. But now that I’ve been practicing, I feel more comfortable.

CH: When did you know that switch was coming, and did it catch you by surprise at all?
OT: Spring Training. When I went to Instructional League, I played a couple games at second base, but when I got to Spring Training, they let me know. They told me they want me to get at-bats, so if I’m going to get at-bats, I’ll play it.

CH: As you’ve come up through the system, you’ve always been pretty young for your level – even now, you’re the tenth-youngest player in the Carolina League. How has that affected you, or has it at all, being young for the league and going up against guys three, four years older?
OT: No, because those guys [points to back to teammates] just go to the field and play the game. Every level is going to be the same – it’s the same baseball. You’ve just got to go play.

CH: Right now, what parts of the game are you working on the most? Are you trying to focus on any particular area of your development, or just looking to improve every day, wherever it comes.
OT: I work on my approach. I try to do it the same way every day, swing at my pitch. The last three weeks, I’ve been swinging at pitches all over the plate, but the last three games, I’ve been more specific, like I was doing the first month of the season, second month of the season.

CH: One thing I’ve always wondered about was the adjustment coming to play in the States for, actually any international signee, from Latin America or otherwise. What’s the adjustment process like coming to the States, on the field, off the field – how much of an overall adjustment is it coming from the Dominican Republic, or from any other country?
OT: It’s hard. The first thing we’ve got to do is learn English. Then we get used to the players. It’s difficult. When you’re at Rookie level, you’re really trying to adjust. In your second and third year, you get more used to it.

CH: Recently, you played in your first professional all-star game down in Myrtle Beach. What was that experience like for you and how did it feel to get named to an all-star team?
OT: Pretty good. The last few years I tried to make the all-star games, but this year, when I made it, I thought of the work I did the last few years. I just went and enjoyed it.

CH: As you’ve come up through the system, has there been any one teammate that impressed you the most, on the field?
OT: I’ve played with Middlebrooks for the last two years. He’s a guy that works every day to get better and better. Every day he puts in his work.

CH: One thing I wanted to ask you about is your birthday. It’s the day after Christmas. A lot of people don’t like having a birthday near Christmas because it gets pushed to the background a bit. What’s it been like for you having a birthday near Christmas?
OT: Well, Dominicans, we don’t celebrate Christmas like it’s a big thing (like in the U.S.). December 24th, we have dinner with family, but the 25th, (we don’t do much).