Royals' Mark Teahen on 3rd position in 3 years
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Watching Mark Teahen trotting into left field can only mean one thing: a terrific new left fielder will soon show up in Kansas City.
That's been the pattern ever since Teahen made it to the big leagues. No sooner does he settle in at a position than somebody comes along to give him the boot. The lean, likable and exceptionally athletic Teahen is working on his third position in three years, asked once again to learn a new job because the Royals have given away his old one.
"Next year I think I'll try my hand at shortstop and second base," Teahen deadpanned.
Most players try to find a position, learn how to play it well, then stretch their careers out for as long as they can.
That's what Teahen had in mind when the Royals brought him up as a third baseman in 2005. He batted a disappointing .246 in 130 games but the next year made a breathtaking jump in slugging percentage, going from .376 to .517. While playing solid defense, he batted .290 with 18 home runs and 69 RBIs.
But the next spring Alex Gordon, a former first-round draft pick who was long considered Kansas City's hottest minor league prospect, was deemed ready for the bigs.
Gordon's position was third base, so Teahen was asked to move to right field. It was a position requiring skills that were radically different from what he had used as an infielder, but he was willing. After a slow start, he caught on.
His strong, accurate arm turned out to be an added asset. He ranked second in the AL and tied the team record with 17 outfield assists.
He thought he had found a home and was relieved to hear the Royals announce last winter that Jose Guillen, whom they signed to a rich free agent contract, would play left field.
But a couple of weeks later Guillen mentioned to someone at the Royals' fan fest that he was going to insist on playing right field.
Manager Trey Hillman, also at the fan fest, along with a number of players and front office executives, was sought out for a meeting right there on the spot.
So when, Teahen was asked the other day, did he find out he would be moving to left?
"At the fan fest," he said.
Kansas City obviously figured that when it's paying a guy $12 million a year -- a team record -- it's best to let him play whatever corner outfield he prefers.
So now it's off to a new position for the versatile and always agreeable Teahen.
"When I see them coming toward me with a catcher's mitt, that's when I'll put my foot down," he said.
Actually, it does make sense putting Guillen in right, and it's something the Royals had been considering all along. That's where he has played almost his entire career.
Plus, there's a big need in left after the Royals declined to make a contract offer to Emil Brown, who played there the past three years while leading the team in RBIs.
And Teahen, who may be the best pure athlete on the 40-man roster, has proven he's willing and able to adapt.
But he's also taking ground balls at first base, where he has played a few times in the past two years, and is listed as one of four candidates at that position as well. When Gordon needs a break, Teahen could also work at third for a spell.
"I've got my first baseman's glove, my third baseman glove and my outfielder glove in my equipment bag," he said. "My shoulder's getting sore carrying it around, but I'll get through it."
Finding a permanent home "would be nice," he acknowledges.
"But at the same time, it's nice to work on a few different positions and make sure I'm good at all of them. As long as I'm in the lineup every day, I guess where I'm playing isn't a huge factor. They put me at positions because they know I can handle them."
Learning a new position didn't do his run production any good. As a right fielder last year he hit .285, but dropped to only seven home runs and 60 RBIs.
"Obviously, I need to hit more home runs and produce more runs in the middle of the lineup," he said. "As we continue to grow as a team, I think I'll continue to grow production-wise. People said I was trying too hard. So I'm going to try easy this year."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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