Tejada excited about Astros' potential

Tejada excited about Astros' potential

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Miguel Tejada knew his answer was surprising, but he was insistent.

"Oh yeah, I think we have the talent that we can score more than we did when I was in Oakland," Tejada said Saturday as he pulled on his Astros jersey a couple of hours before Houston's game against Atlanta.

Tejada's optimism can be understood with being on a new team and all, but the Astros only scored 723 runs last season, the team's lowest total in a uninterrupted year since 1993 (716). The A's averaged 858 runs per season Tejada's last five years in Oakland and racked up 947 during the 2000 season alone.

Tejada, however, insists the overhauled Houston offense has the potential to not only compare favorably with those Oakland scoring machines, but exceed that production.

Oakland made the playoffs four times in five years before Tejada moved on to Baltimore after the 2003 season. Of course, those A's teams weren't all about offense. Oakland had a trio of guys named Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito on the hill.

"Yes, but at that time we didn't have two guys like Carlos [Lee] and [Lance] Berkman," Tejada counters. "At that time everybody was a normal [Major Leaguer], everybody [contributed]. When I played in Oakland, at that time we only had Giambi that was [an established All-Star caliber player]. Now we have me, Carlos and Berkman.

True, but those A's also had contributing cast of talented players like Eric Chavez, Jermaine Dye, Terrence Long, Ramon Hernandez, Johnny Damon, Ben Grieve and Matt Stairs.

"We had good players and we scored a lot of runs," Tejada said. "We played hard and tried to have fun. This team has the talent to be much better because we have some good players who have been around the big leagues, like Carlos, Berkman, myself, [Ty] Wigginton, [Kaz] Matsui. Not many teams have a lineup like this."

Tejada's new manager, Cecil Cooper, also has high hopes for Houston's offense. Cooper believes the switch-hitting Berkman is the key.

"He's the guy that anchors our offense [from both sides of the plate]," Cooper said. "Think about 2005. Morgan [Ensberg] had a good year, but the key for us was Lance; that's how we got to the [World] Series, he had a monster year.

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"You can't do it without him. I really do believe we're going to have a lot of help. But we're going to go as far as he really takes us [and] as far as Roy [Oswalt] carries us. Those are the guys that have to be the anchors on both sides. I could add a super three, because [closer Jose] Valverde -- if we can get to him as many times as we need to get him, give him a chance to save a bunch of games -- those three guys are the [key]."

Getting back to the offense, it's not difficult to think the Astros will score more runs.

They've added speed in Matsui and Michael Bourn, plus they have power in the middle with Tejada, Berkman and Lee and potential in Hunter Pence and J.R. Towles.

But 723 runs to the mid-800s would be quite a one-year jump.

Then again, Tejada and Cooper sound convincing.

"Big Puma [Berkman], he's got to be the guy who hits well over .300 for us, with 120-plus RBIs, that kind of stuff, and be a consistent threat for us to be real good," Cooper said. "Tejada is going to be who he was, Carlos will be the same old Carlos. We hope the other guys around those three can do the damage that we think they'll do, but it's still going to revolve around Big Puma. He has to do it, and I believe he's determined to get it turned around.

"We need the norm out of all those guys. We get that we're going to be scary to face."

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.