Baltimore’s once promising season has taken another turn for the worse.
The struggling Orioles will be without Rafael Palmeiro for nine more games after the slugger was suspended Monday for violating baseball’s steroids policy.
Baltimore will try to make the best of a bad situation when it begins a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Palmeiro became baseball’s highest-profile player to be suspended for using steroids. He testified before Congress five months ago that he never used steroids, an assertion he changed Monday to, “I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period.”
While he didn’t deny testing positive for the drugs, he insisted that ingesting them was an accident.
“When I testified in front of Congress, I know that I was testifying under oath and I told the truth,” Palmeiro said during a telephone conference call Monday. “Today I am telling the truth again that I did not do this intentionally or knowingly.”
The 40-year-old first baseman became the seventh player to fail a test under the toughened major league policy, which took effect in March.
On July 15, Palmeiro joined Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players to amass 3,000 hits and 500 homers. Baltimore’s cleanup hitter is batting .280 with 18 homers and 59 RBIs.
Losing Palmeiro is just the latest blow to an Orioles team that has lost six straight and 14 of 16 to fall 8 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East.
“The timing obviously is not good. We’re going to have to make do right now,” Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said. “We’re going to have to band together as a team and fight through it. There’s no other way of doing it.”
Without Palmeiro on Monday, the Orioles stranded 10 runners and completed a dismal 1-7 homestand in which they were outscored 52-31 with a 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
The Orioles will try to get back on track against the Angels, who have lost six of seven. Los Angeles is coming off a pair of excruciating 8-7 losses to the New York Yankees. On Sunday, Angels’ usually reliable bullpen blew a four-run lead and then lost the game in the 11th inning.
The first-place Angels’ lead over Oakland in the AL West, once 12 1/2 games on May 29, is now down to one.