SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- What did Miguel Tejada miss most during his seven years away from the Bay Area?
"The playoffs," he replied, without hesitation.
If the former A's shortstop and 2002 AL MVP proves himself just as punchy in the batter's box and just as quick on the double-play pivot, the Giants will have themselves one heck of a leader on their infield. True to his reputation as an energetic, tireless worker, Tejada delayed his first interview at Scottsdale Stadium on Friday so he could hit in the indoor cage. He also began a nurturing relationship with shortstop prospect Ehire Adrianza.
It's a daunting task, being the only major addition to a team coming off a World Series victory. But Tejada, who finished last season with the San Diego Padres, said he'll have chill bumps when his new teammates receive their championship rings in April.
And the ceremony will inspire him to win one of his own.
"I've been looking for a team to give me the opportunity to play in October, and this is it. I think I'm on the right team," said Tejada, who hasn't reached the postseason since four consecutive trips with the A's from 2000-03. "Here I am. I'm ready to be a champion."
Tejada, who turns 37 in May, played third base with the Baltimore Orioles last season. But he became San Diego's everyday shortstop after a midsummer trade and convinced Giants officials that he could handle the position. He trained all winter with noted workout fiend Ivan Rodriguez and said he conditions himself to play any position.
After Juan Uribe took a three-year offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants needed a stopgap to play short while Adrianza and Brandon Crawford develop in the minors. They settled quickly on Tejada, who was a durable presence last year even though his .381 slugging percentage was the lowest of his career.
The Giants need to replace more than just Uribe's clutch production, including his 24 home runs and 85 RBIs that ranked second on the team to Aubrey Huff. Uribe also was an upbeat, stabilizing presence whose dominoes table became a clubhouse crossroads for English- and Spanish-speaking players. Uribe's games had a profit motive, too, as he routinely took a stack of $20 bills from teammates such as Brian Wilson and Tim Lincecum.
Wilson and Lincecum will save some cash this season.
"I don't play those games at the ballpark," Tejada said. "I'm old school."
That's not to suggest Tejada is stone serious. Barry Zito, his former A's teammate, can't wait to see Tejada's familiar antics, whether it's talking to himself at shortstop, throwing brand-new batting gloves into the stands after making an out or holding his own personal yard sale in the middle of a game.
"One day, he took all his bats to the end of the dugout and gave all of them to the fans because he was just fed up with it all," Zito said. "Miggy, he just likes to have fun. He wants to have a good time, and that's the M.O. of this team. We want to enjoy playing together and kick some butts in the meantime.
"He doesn't have to think about fitting in here. It's just his nature."
Huff, who played with Tejada in Baltimore, understands the Giants are getting a boost in the clubhouse in addition to the middle infield.
"He's one of my favorite teammates of all time," Huff said, smiling. "We lost a great one in Uribe. But we're getting a great one in Tejada, and he speaks better English, too."
Sometimes, sign language works best. Tejada and Pablo Sandoval should come up with some involved handshake rituals in the dugout. Tejada also plans to invite the Kung Fu Panda to train with him, although Sandoval said he'd stick to his own schedule.
Mostly, Tejada is looking to scratch that seven-year itch.
"One of the reasons San Francisco won it last year is because those guys are like a family," Tejada said. "You've got to love your family, and when you do, you have a good result. It's not separate groups. One group makes a better team.
"I understand Uribe was very special to this team last year. I saw everything he does. And I'm very proud to be the guy that can replace that kind of guy. From the first day of spring training, I have the feeling this team can do it again."
For more on the Giants, see Andrew Baggarly's Extra Baggs blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/extrabaggs.