O's tell Palmeiro not to return

Under cloud of steroids, he'll sit out season's final 10 days

Baseball

September 23, 2005|By Roch Kubatko and Dan Connolly | Roch Kubatko and Dan Connolly,Sun reporters

NEW YORK -- Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro has been told to stay home and not rejoin the team for the last 10 games of the 2005 season, a source with the club confirmed yesterday.

The team had been bracing for the possibility of a mixed reception within a clubhouse that once offered more support.

Palmeiro, who tested positive for a steroid and served a 10-day suspension beginning Aug. 1, has been rehabilitating knee and ankle injuries in Texas. He testified before a baseball arbitration panel that he received a substance from one of his teammates that caused the positive test and led to his suspension, according to sources familiar with the congressional committee's investigation.

The Washington law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw, which represents Palmeiro, issued a statement last night saying: "We are disturbed about the misleading reports being leaked by unnamed sources who claim knowledge of the investigation. Rafael Palmeiro has never implicated any player in the intentional use or distribution of steroids, or any other illegal substance, in any interview or testimony."

Palmeiro has said publicly that he didn't deliberately take a steroid.

According to an industry source, Palmeiro has suggested that the positive test was triggered after he ingested a liquid form of a legal Vitamin B12 supplement given to him by a teammate.

Palmeiro is adamant, the source said, that neither he nor the teammate had any idea that the supplement was, or could have been, contaminated by an illegal steroid.

Vitamin B12 is found in animal foods including clams, liver, beef and fish. It helps maintain healthy nerves and red blood cells. Symptoms of deficiency include weakness and fatigue.

However, people with normal diets usually get enough of the vitamin. Nevertheless, B12 injections are thought by some athletes to increase energy and shorten muscles" recovery time after workouts.

The House Government Reform Committee, as part of its investigation of whether Palmeiro lied six months ago when he testified that he never used steroids, is trying to determine whether Palmeiro's story is accurate. Players are trying to figure out why he's implicating one of them.

"I'm disappointed if that's true." said Orioles designated hitter Jay Gibbons, the team's union representative.

"I don't think it would help, put it that way, to say another teammate gave you something, I think you"ve got to look in the mirror and take responsibility for your actions.

"I understand why he went home, because he thought he was a distraction and all that. It's been a little bit less hectic in here, but it's not going away. He's not here and we're getting questions right now. I don't think it's going to get any better if he comes back. Right now it's definitely a distraction."

At a March congressional hearing, Palmeiro was accompanied by former Indiana congressman David McIntosh and by former Clinton administration Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor. Neither of the Washington lawyers could be reached early last night to respond to questions regarding Palmeiro.

Major League Baseball spokesman Patrick Courtney said, 'We've been cooperating fully with the committee' in regard to the Palmeiro case. He declined further comment.

Rumors have been circulating among players for weeks that Palmeiro linked one of them to the positive test, though they weren't certain whether he said that the substance had been given to him without his knowledge.

"If you're going to call somebody out, that's not right, but he's trying to save his name, too." said reliever Steve Kline. "I guess you do things when you're in tight situations.

"Do two wrongs make a right? Who knows?'

Palmeiro, who turns 41 tomorrow, will finish the season with a .266 average, 18 homers and 60 RBIs in 110 games. Mired in a 2-for-26 slump, he hadn't played since wearing earplugs to drown out the crowd noise Aug. 30 in Toronto.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Jeff Barker and David Kohn contributed to this article.

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