O's Rally Around Tejada

Irked by B-12 claim, `family' closes ranks, tells Palmeiro to stay home

September 24, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

With so many people in the Orioles' organization trying to prevent another distraction from seeping into their clubhouse, it's fair to ask whether the team would know how to function without one.

"I haven't found that out yet," interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. He had to smile as the words passed his lips, knowing the season has been filled with them, perhaps relieved that he finally could do something about it.

Down to their final 10 games last night, the Orioles tried their hardest to keep the peace. They told Rafael Palmeiro that he wouldn't play again this year, isolating him from the other players, some of whom remain bitter that he brought up Miguel Tejada's name while appealing his positive steroid test during an arbitration panel hearing.

The decision to keep Palmeiro off the team was made in a meeting between Perlozzo, majority owner Peter Angelos and executives Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan.

"We decided it's probably best that Raffy not dress with the club for the rest of the year," Beattie said. "It was physically coming back and getting in shape and playing again, as well as the distraction of everything else. ...

"He wanted to come back and play. But I think in this instance we had to do what we felt was best for the rest of the players. It was never going to be, `How do you feel today? How's your hamstring?' It was going to be, `Have you heard from Raffy?' It gets old."

Said Perlozzo: "I feel bad for Raffy because he's gone through this whole thing, and I don't really know the facts about it. You never want to see somebody suffer. But at the same time, business is business, and he knew he wasn't going to play a whole lot. We just didn't need that right now.

"The clubhouse should be a cohesive thing, and anything that takes away from that is a negative."

Palmeiro's contract runs out after the season, and it's doubtful that he'll be re-signed if he doesn't retire. "I can't go there right now," Beattie said, "but I think it would be very tough for him to come back in an Orioles uniform."

Tejada said he holds no grudges with Palmeiro, who disclosed that the shortstop once supplied him with vitamin B-12, leading to rumors that he was using the possibility of contamination as an alibi. They've discussed the matter, in person and through their agent, Fernando Cuza, and apparently remain friends. Palmeiro didn't apologize, Tejada said.

"I don't hate anybody," Tejada said. "God up there is the one in charge of everybody. I'm not mad because I know I've done nothing wrong. I talked to Raffy and he said he didn't tell anybody I gave him steroids. Everything is fine."

A sample of the liquid vitamin was found not to contain illegal substances when tested three times by baseball investigators. The B-12, and Tejada, were clean.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I just gave a B-12 to one of my friends to help him out," Tejada said. "I don't give any steroids. Right now they're not looking for B-12, they're looking for something else."

Some players would settle for an explanation from Palmeiro. They supported him when news broke Aug. 1 that he tested positive for steroids. They wonder why he didn't take better care of Tejada.

"We've been supporting him so much, and for him to come out and try to play it off on another teammate is something that's not right," Jay Gibbons said. "It's going to be hard to forgive. I think it's a good idea that he stays away. It's kind of like a family in here. You have to take responsibility for your own actions. You are a grown man, and if you make a mistake, own up to it."

Players believe there's a code, unwritten but universally understood, that what happens in the clubhouse should stay there.

"We are a family here," Gibbons said. "Stuff like that shouldn't happen. We've all supported Raffy all year from whatever happened, and for this to come out, it was kind of a shock. It hurt a little bit."

The Health Policy Advisory Committee, which oversees baseball's testing policy, issued a statement yesterday that exonerated Tejada and chastised the media for reporting that he might have distributed steroids to another player.

"I'm sure stuff can get misconstrued," Chris Gomez said. "I find it hard to believe that Raffy would deliberately do something like that. And I just feel bad for Miggy and I hope it doesn't affect him performance-wise or worrying about his legacy. It's just a shame he has to deal with it."

Tejada said he purchased the B-12 vitamins in the Dominican Republican and passed one bottle to Palmeiro after he complained of pain and fatigue.

"I told him that in the Dominican, when we're feeling like that, we take B-12 and we don't feel like that anymore," Tejada said. "If I knew all these things would be happening, I wouldn't have done it. I just tried to help a guy. I didn't think that when you helped somebody it would bring so many bad things."

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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