Palmeiro wants talk of steroids long gone

But Oriole says he's still considering taking legal action against Canseco

February 25, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro hasn't read Jose Canseco's tell-all book or watched any television programs devoted to the subject. He wants to move away from the accusations of steroid use and concentrate on baseball, as if this were any other spring training.

This is what he wants.

This is what he's trying so hard to do.

Unable to look past the allegations, Palmeiro said yesterday that he hasn't decided whether to take legal action against Canseco, the former major league outfielder who says in his new book that he introduced steroids to Palmeiro while teammates with the Texas Rangers in 1992. Canseco went a step further on 60 Minutes, saying he injected Palmeiro with the drug.

"The one thing I can say is I have the best law firm and the best lawyer standing in the wings in [Orioles owner] Peter Angelos," Palmeiro said after yesterday's first full-squad workout at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. "I have options available for me. He stands behind me, and he's ready. I'll look at all my options, and I'll decide."

Palmeiro issued a statement denying his steroid use shortly after information from Canseco's book became public. Angelos also gave a statement that defended Palmeiro and offered him representation.

"It's difficult for anybody, but I said my statement and stand behind it 100 percent," Palmeiro said. "As difficult as it is, it's time to move on. He did it and I'm sorry he did, but it's time to put it behind us and move on.

"I think for the most part fans know who's telling the truth and who's not. I think my reputation means a lot, and I think it carries a lot of weight. It's tough to defend yourself in the public's eye, but I think that my actions and how I defend myself stand on its own."

Palmeiro took his physical with the other position players, attended a closed-door meeting in the clubhouse with manager Lee Mazzilli and headed to the field around 11:45 a.m. Shortstop Miguel Tejada had an excused absence because of personal business. He's expected to work out today.

Newest Oriole Sammy Sosa, another player Canseco suspects of using steroids, gave Palmeiro a big hug upon seeing him for the first time. Sosa later put on a show at batting practice with his prodigious shots, some of them clearing the scoreboard in center field.

"He put on the same one yesterday," Mazzilli said. "He's an amazing hitter."

Palmeiro, 40, is expected to hit behind Sosa in a lineup that should produce plenty of runs. Unfortunately for him, Canseco's book has linked them in another way.

"I can't worry about those things," Palmeiro said. "There's always going to be someone saying something about you, whether it's true or not. You just go on. You can't worry about those things.

"My job right now is to get ready for baseball and to be in the best shape I can be. I can't focus on what he's saying or what his goals are. My mind has to be here."

Before Palmeiro reached the clubhouse yesterday morning, his two sons already had burst through the door and located his locker. Patrick, the oldest at 14, was watching television with Palmeiro at their Colleyville, Texas, home when news broke of Canseco's allegations.

"He started laughing. He's like, `What's this guy saying?' My kids understand that a lot of the stuff is made up," Palmeiro said.

"[Canseco] has his reasons for accusing people, and he's got his reasons for writing a book that's trying to bring our game down. This game was great to him. He was the only one at fault for destroying himself. He should be thankful that he had an opportunity to play."

Palmeiro and Canseco grew up playing baseball together in the Miami area but didn't socialize beyond their interaction on the same team.

"We went our separate ways after high school, and I never saw him again until he was in the big leagues and I was in the minors," Palmeiro said. "He and I have never been close friends or anything. We were teammates, but that's about it."

While Canseco signs more copies of his book, Palmeiro prepares for his 20th season in the majors. He's expected to be the regular designated hitter, but he'll also play first base. Tenth on the all-time home run list with 551, he's also 78 hits shy of 3,000.

"To just come out and smell the grass and see the sunshine, the smell of a new baseball and just be out here with all the guys, it's just a tremendous feeling," he said.

Then the reality of Canseco's book intrudes again. The grass smells the same. He hopes the game will feel the same.

"I don't know why he did this," Palmeiro said. "One thing that I can say is it's time to move on. I've answered that here today. It's time to talk baseball, man."

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