By Rich Coutinho
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Last night, manager Terry Collins inserted Ruben Tejada in the lead-off position in the Mets batting order and he responded with a three-hit night helping the Mets trounce the Phillies 11-1 before a sell-out crowd at Citi Field. When you think about it, Tejada has flown under the radar mainly because of a great starting rotation coupled with the fact he was missed a boatload of games due to injury. But make no mistake — Ruben Tejada personifies the attitude of this Mets team — go ahead keep overlooking us and pretty soon we will pass you in the standings.
Ruben Tejada does everything in a very unassuming way, but he has the batting eye of a veteran player fouling off tough pitch after tough pitch until he gets one he can handle. And even when the pitcher does get him out, he forces him to throw more pitches than he’d like to and that puts the hurler’s gas tank at empty much earlier in the night that the opposing manager anticipated.
At his shortstop position, Tejada makes everything look easy gliding to the ball as if his feet had roller skates attached to them and while his arm does not have the sizzle some shortstops possess but he makes up for that by making accurate and precise throws to first base. And then there is the intangible quality Tejada has that few young players have — nothing seems to bother him. When he makes an error, he never hangs his head and when he is slumping at the plate, he quickly returns to the basics of hitting — if you see a pitch you like be aggressive but just try to go up the middle and never overswing.
“He is an amazingly mature player”, says Collins,”and that is surprising considering his age which is why I entrusted him to the leadoff spot. When we lost Jose Reyes, we lost a great player but this kid – Ruben Tejada can play the game.” That is obvious but considering the fact he was replacing Jose Reyes, it would be understandable if Tejada felt the pressure but that is not in his DNA.
“Playing alongside him last year”, says David Wright, “you could see he was a fairly polished player which has served him well this year. He just does not get nervous because he is so confident but it is not a brash cockiness–just a quiet purposeful attitude.” When your manager and the team’s best player give you reviews like that, the sky is the limit for Ruben Tejada.