Rafael Palmeiro may have figured out a way to shut out the boos, but his offensive struggles persist.
The veteran slugger has been jeered and taunted ever since his return from a 10-day suspension for testing positive for steroids. He is the most prominent major league player punished for taking banned drugs, and said when the suspension was announced that he never intentionally took steroids.
“It’s a situation that you wouldn’t put your worst enemy in,” teammate Brian Roberts said. “Obviously, none of us will ever know what the truth is, but I believe him. And for him to have to go through this, it’s something that we can’t really comprehend.”
Palmeiro was loudly booed in his first at-bat of a 7-2 loss to Toronto in the series opener Tuesday. In his second at-bat, he sported earplugs to help drown out the noise.
However, the 40-year-old slugger continued his struggles at the plate, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He has two hits in 26 at-bats, an .077 average, since returning from the suspension.
Palmeiro expressed disbelief when Orioles spokesman Kevin Behan told him the first few questions to interim manager Sam Perlozzo were about his earplugs. Palmeiro declined to talk to reporters, saying through Behan that he’ll speak Wednesday.
Palmeiro was Baltimore’s designated hitter, a day after Perlozzo suggested he has lost his job as the regular first baseman. Perlozzo didn’t notice the earplugs until his last at-bat.
“You’ll have to ask Raffy if it bothers him, but we’re out there rooting for him,” he said.
Roberts led off the first with a homer, the fourth time he’s done it this season, for the Orioles, who have lost 10 of 11. Baltimore has been outscored 68-29 in that span.
Shea Hillenbrand had a triple and an RBI double for Toronto, which improved to 2-2 on its nine-game homestand. The Blue Jays had lost eight of their previous 10 games.