Teammates mum on suspension
Mazzilli: 'They all wanted to give their support'
BALTIMORE -- Draped over six windows of the B & O Warehouse is a large banner commemorating Rafael Palmeiro's reaching the 3,000-hit plateau. It simply says "Congratulations Raffy! 3,000."To many Baltimore fans, he is Raffy, not Rafael. In many ways, they enjoyed a personal relationship with the slugger, and he embraced his status as a Baltimore icon. Palmeiro commanded equal respect in the Orioles' clubhouse, serving as a quiet but effective leader for his younger teammates. On Monday, as players trickled into the clubhouse to prepare for their series finale with the Chicago White Sox, they were hit with the news that Palmeiro had been suspended for 10 games because he violated the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Palmeiro admitted he "unknowingly" used a steroid, and the appeal of his suspension through the Major League Baseball Players Association was denied by the Major League Arbitration Panel. Palmeiro did not arrive at Camden Yards. He released a statement before the game, then -- accompanied by agent Arn Tellem -- conducted a conference call with reporters. The Orioles' players were stunned, but none of them would comment on Palmeiro except longtime teammate B.J. Surhoff. Surhoff would not address the suspension or the topic of performance-enhancing drugs. "We need to try to be as supportive as we can because there is no telling that this is going to be a pretty tough ride for him," Surhoff said. Because of the conditions of the MLB drug policy, a suspended player's team is not informed of the positive test or the suspension until it is final. Executive vice president Jim Beattie, vice president Mike Flanagan and manager Lee Mazzilli were unaware of the circumstances until owner Peter Angelos called Flanagan. "We were deeply saddened by the news," Flanagan said. "But it is still an ongoing process and we are still gathering information. We are deeply saddened by the turn of events today. We're disappointed, No. 1 because there is no good time for this. I think with all that's gone on with the club that's one of the disappointments of the circumstances involved." Mazzilli informed the players before the game and then read a statement from Palmeiro after the game.
Rafael Palmeiro's Suspension
"We addressed it after the game," he said. "I think the guys were taken back by it. Like [Flanagan] said, they were saddened. I think they were a little disappointed at what happened. They all wanted to give their support to Raffy."Palmeiro is not allowed to be with the club or use club facilities until Aug. 11, and he will not be with the Orioles during their six-game road trip to Anaheim and Texas. The organization can fill Palmeiro's spot on the roster and likely will have an addition for Tuesday's game with the Angels. The suspension is perhaps the most damaging blow to the Orioles' season. The Orioles have lost 14 of 16 games and are 8 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Orioles need to make a run, and quickly, if they expect to be in the hunt over the final six weeks, but that run will have to begin without one of the club's most feared hitters. After Sunday's game, Palmeiro was hitting .280 with 18 homers and 59 RBIs. "The timing obviously is not good," Mazzilli said. "We're going to have to make do. We're going to have to band together as a team and fight through it. There's no other way of not being able to get through this other than to fight through it. I think the team and clubhouse feels the same way. I don't think there's any other way to go about it." Former Major League manager Buck Martinez, now an Orioles broadcaster, said he was unsure what to make of Monday's developments. "When [Palmeiro] was so adamant in March and made such a stern statement, I was proud of him being able to say that with so much conviction. Myself, like everyone else, kind of thought, 'This is a guy who is really trying to clear his name,' " Martinez said. "I am disappointed for the game. It's such a good game, and it's overcome so many things. If you ask me, is [Palmeiro] a Hall of Famer based on the numbers he put up, you'd have to say yes. But how much of a cloud does this cast on everything, this whole generation? It's sad."
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.