Houston OK's Tejada's request to play winter ball for Dominican Republic

ORLANDO -- The Houston Astros granted permission on Saturday to new shortstop Miguel Tejada to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

"I believe that the most important thing here is that a player of Miguel Tejada's caliber wants to play, so this is the right decision to make," said Astros general manager Ed Wade.

Wade also said Tejada's agent, Fernando Cuza, left him a phone message telling him that Tejada was interested in playing in the Dominican Republic, something he has been doing for 12 years now.

Once the request was received, Wade sent the Astros' approval to the Mayor League Baseball commissioner's office. Wade also sent the approval to the Dominican League and the team where Tejada plays, the Cibaeñas Eagles.

"When someone like Miguel wants to play, his home country benefits form the fact that such a good player wishes to participate," Wade said. "He's interested in playing in order to get ready for the spring training camp, and we are all in favor of that. We are positive he will handle things well."

Tejada, who was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to Houston on December 13th, joined the Eagles this week. The shortstop practiced with his teammates Wednesday, when the semifinal playoffs started in the Dominican League.

"Soon, I'll be ready to play, I've been training on my own", said Tejada, who is likely to make his debut during the winter season on January 2.

Tejada has played with the Eagles during the last 12 seasons and helped them win eight titles in the Dominican Republic and four in the Caribbean Series. The shortstop didn't want to stop playing in his own country, despite having signed a $72 million contract with a Major League club in December 2003.

With Tejada on the team, the Eagles will have a roster made up of major leaguers such Cincinnati Reds' third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Rafael Furcal and free agent first baseman Tony Batista.

This team is the current Dominican champion, but lost two of its first three contests during the semifinals.

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.