Palmeiro to rehab in Texas

`I'll be back,' Oriole says before leaving for home

decision is team's idea

September 06, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Rafael Palmeiro will leave the Orioles and return to his Texas home to rehabilitate his ailing right ankle and knee, though the beleaguered first baseman vowed yesterday to rejoin the team before the end of the season.

"It was their idea ... and I think it is a good idea," Palmeiro said. "I'll be back. I am not sure how long [it will take], but I'll be back."

Palmeiro has played in just seven of 24 games since returning Aug. 11 from his 10-day suspension for a failed steroid test.

Slowed by a sprained ankle he suffered Aug. 16 in Oakland, Calif., and by a strained knee that forced him to leave the team in Boston last week and return to Baltimore to get a magnetic resonance imaging test, Palmeiro is just 2-for-26 since returning. Even worse, he fears he has become a distraction to the rest of his team.

Though he has received plenty of support at Camden Yards, Palmeiro has been jeered and taunted on the road, and it had become so bothersome to him that he wore earplugs last Tuesday when the Orioles were playing at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Beginning Friday, the Orioles face a six-game road trip, starting in Seattle, where fans treated him like one of their own when he notched his 3,000th hit there July 15, and then on to Texas, where Palmeiro played for 10 big league seasons.

"I think that if I stayed with the team and traveled with the team, there's always going to be a distraction there," Palmeiro said. "I think [my] being in Toronto was a really big distraction to our team. We need to try to avoid that as much as we can."

Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo, who met with Palmeiro for about 10 minutes before the Orioles' 6-2 loss yesterday, downplayed the distraction part but thought it would be best to allow Palmeiro to rehab at home.

"We will monitor him and bring him back when he is ready to come back," said Perlozzo, who wasn't ready to commit to how much he'll use Palmeiro if he returns. "I'd like to see him get back for the last 10 days anyway, but we'll see. ... Raffy doesn't want to shut it down yet."

Before the decision to send him home was announced, Palmeiro spoke to reporters at length in the Orioles' clubhouse before the game, acknowledging that his return from the steroid suspension has been "much, much harder" than he anticipated, on both him and his family.

"I never expected that anything like this could happen to me," Palmeiro said. "I've played my whole career pretty much injury-free. There's been no controversy in my life at all, on and off the field. I've always been a type of person that does it the right way and follows the rules and does the right thing for the most part and everything just kind of crumbled, unexpectedly really."

Palmeiro, 40, a free agent at the end of the season, has said several times that he'll strongly consider retiring when the season ends because he wants to spend more time with his wife and two kids and pursue other interests. He said that whatever decision he made, he planned on doing it without much fanfare, but he acknowledged yesterday that has become impossible.

Asked whether his suspension for steroids and all the recent injuries will affect his decision, Palmeiro said it wouldn't, but this season has "certainly not been the way I anticipated going out."

Palmeiro has vowed to tell his side of the story on the failed steroid test but has been advised by his lawyers not to discuss it until Congress completes its investigation into whether Palmeiro committed perjury when he said under oath at a congressional hearing March 17 that he never used steroids.

"Obviously, I would love to play and come back and finish and hopefully prove to everyone that I can still play at a high level, that I can still be productive and do it the right way, which I've always done," Palmeiro said. "I am not going to shy away from what happened to me. I am going to face it. Hopefully, I can explain myself one day and whether people believe me or not, I can't control that."

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