Palmeiro's suspension has O's dazed, confused

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Gibbons: `Something's got to give ... eventually'

Notebook

August 04, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Each day of Rafael Palmeiro's suspension for violating baseball's steroid policy seems to leave his Orioles' teammates more confused, and more in search of answers.

Reports that Palmeiro tested positive for stanozolol, a potent steroid that's not likely to be found in any supplements, had them wondering if he intentionally took the drug, or if the same protein drinks they consume could be contaminated.

"I'd still like to talk to Raffy," Jay Gibbons said before last night's game against the Los Angeles Angels. "A couple of people have come up to me and said it would be hard to find in an over-the-counter supplement, that they don't know how that's possible. I don't know what to think.

"Everybody's scared because, on the other hand, you don't want there to be tainted supplements out there. Not one person [of the eight suspended] has come out and said, `Yeah, I took steroids.' I don't know, is everybody telling the truth? Something's got to give here eventually."

Brian Roberts figures whatever comes of this, Palmeiro ultimately is the one who has to answer to it.

"At the worst, if he says he did it intentionally, he made a mistake. Who hasn't? And he's paying for it," Roberts said.

"I'm in no position to chastise the guy. He's the one who has to deal with it. Yes, it hurts our team, but more important, it hurts his career and his reputation. I'm sure he'll handle it however he feels is appropriate."

Bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks remembers Palmeiro as the kid retrieving baseballs at the Orioles' spring training complex in Miami. He has watched Palmeiro's sons grow. The two men go back a long way, and he'll continue to offer support.

"I do this more with my heart than my head," Hendricks said. "He's a good person. I can't condemn him. It's sad. I feel for his family most of all."

Holding pattern

Palmeiro's suspension has left the club in a holding pattern regarding a planned Aug. 14 ceremony to honor him for becoming only the fourth player with at least 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. They haven't canceled it, and they aren't moving forward.

"As of right now, our plans have not changed," said Spiro P. Alafassos, the Orioles' executive director of communications.

The Orioles have removed the banner that hung on the warehouse beyond right field congratulating Palmeiro for his 3,000th hit. But it didn't come down as a reaction to his suspension. The team was going to remove it after the series against the Texas Rangers but kept it up because two games against the Chicago White Sox were televised nationally.

The banner probably will hang in center field if the ceremony takes place.

Some players would prefer that the Orioles cancel it. "That's a bad idea," one veteran said. "He doesn't want any extra attention. He didn't like it even before all this happened. And it's uncomfortable for us. What are we supposed to say? Congratulations? It's just a bad idea."

Markakis excels

Seemingly jinxed when it comes to their first-round draft picks, the injuries and unmet expectations piled high, the Orioles can brag about their 2003 selection.

Outfielder Nick Markakis continues to dominate at every level and seems a lock to be on the major league roster toward the end of next season.

Markakis recently was promoted from Single-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie and homered in his first two games in the Eastern League. He collected three hits and four RBIs in his debut.

"He's put together a pretty consistent season," said Tripp Norton, assistant director of minor league operations. "When he was selected [in the draft], our scouting department told us that he was a guy who had a good bat and his power would come. He's certainly showing us that this year."

Markakis batted .300 with two homers and nine RBIs in a 10-game stretch with Frederick before his promotion.

"He's the real deal," one team official said. "He can run, throw, catch, hit, and he's got some power. He could be up [in the majors] by the end of next year."

Sun staff writer Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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