When the Boston Red Sox decided after last season that the future for Oscar Tejeda
would be at second base and not shortstop, Salem Red Sox manager Kevin Boles had no reservations about his player's ability to switch positions successfully.
"He could play both [positions] up the middle, but we're more confident that as his body fills out more he'll profile as an offensive second baseman," said Boles, who skippers Boston's Class A Advanced affiliate and managed Tejeda at Class A Greenville in 2008-09. "He's always had the arm strength, but at shortstop his range was a little limited to his backhand side."
There was another reason for Boles' confidence in Tejeda's ability to make the transition. The 20-year-old oozes confidence, thinking there's nothing he can't do on the baseball diamond. So Boles knew the youngster signed by the Red Sox in July 2006 as a non-drafted free agent would succeed.
"It comes from my mom," Tejeda said smiling, when asked where he gets his self-assurance. "She's strong, so I'm confident in myself. I was kind of shy before, but when you go to the field and play, I'm happy no matter what happens. If I do well, if I don't do well, it's all good."
Lately, the soft-spoken Dominican is enjoying the fruits of his hard work. He's hitting .324 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 75 games and homered in last month's California/Carolina League All-Star Game in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Those numbers represent a quantum leap from the .257 average, three homers and 50 RBIs he put up for the Drive last season as well as the .261 mark, four homers and 38 RBIs from 2008. Clearly, the positional switch hasn't been negatively reflected in Tejeda's production. In fact, it's just the opposite.
"The main thing you worry about is how it will affect his offense," Boles said. "You know the defensive side of it is going to take some time. But he's really made strides with his defense. I think he's really found a home [at second base]. He's one of our most consistent hitters."
Working with Salem hitting coach Carlos Febles and Red Sox Minor League hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez, Tejeda has undergone a transition in the batter's box. He's ditched the high leg kick and quieted his lower half, allowing his quick hands and upper torso to create a more powerful swing.
The results have been particularly noticeable in the way Tejeda attacks the off-speed pitches that once frustrated him. And he's added power to his stroke.
"I hit [the curveball] much better than last year," he said. "This year, I can do it because I can see it better. That's why I hit it better."
Added Boles, "He's opened his swing to all fields and his two-strike approach has greatly improved."
All of which has made Tejeda's stock rise in the Red Sox organization.
"You see what he has at 20 and you ask what he's going to be like at 24. That's what's so exciting," Boles said. "I think when he matures, we'll have an exciting player on our hands."
Hit and miss: Benches cleared and five players were ejected in Winston-Salem's 5-3 victory over Lynchburg on Monday. The fracas started in the seventh inning, when Lynchburg's Nick Christiani hit Seth Loman in the leg to load the bases. Christiani's next three pitches were ankle-biters to Ozzie Lewis, who took exception and started jawing at Christiani and Hillcats skipper Pat Kelly. When order was restored, Christiani drilled Lewis in the back and both benches cleared. In the ensuing shoving match, Lynchburg fans began throwing tennis balls and beer at Dash players. Kelly and Christiani were ejected by plate umpire Joey Amaral along with Loman, Lewis and Winston-Salem's Eduardo Escobar.
Thieving Indians: Kinston stole five bases in a win over Myrtle Beach on July 1, and all five of the thefts came in the seventh inning.
Quick contribution: Promoted from Class A Burlington the previous day, Wilmington C Wil Meyers made his first Carolina League at-bat a memorable one. He stroked a two-run, bases-loaded single in the Blue Rocks' 3-0 victory over Lynchburg on July 1.