FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 16 -- There was no sense of distress in the Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse as two of their top players headed to Washington on Wednesday for a congressional hearing on steroid use in baseball. The early risers -- a group of mostly low-profile players -- arrived at 7 a.m. and readied themselves for a trip to Vero Beach, Fla., to play the Los Angeles Dodgers. The rest arrived about 9 a.m. and dressed for a short afternoon practice.
Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa's lockers remained untouched. Both were on their way to Washington.
Sammy Sosa, left, and Rafael Palmeiro will be in Washington on Wednesday for a congressional hearing on steroid use in baseball.
(Gary I Rothstein - Reuters)
"I didn't sense any apprehension on either's part," Orioles Vice President Mike Flanagan said. "With spring training going on, I think they did a good job of blocking what was going on. Raffy was here [Tuesday] and had his kids out taking [batting practice]. I didn't get a sense of dread from any of it. If it had to happen, then it was going to happen. I certainly haven't seen any change in their outward appearance."
Palmeiro and Sosa were subpoenaed last week. Since then, both have politely declined to comment on the hearings. Flanagan admitted he is interested to see what happens on Capitol Hill.
"Yeah, of course I pay attention to it, to all of it," Flanagan said. "But I don't know, is it being televised? Is it closed? I really don't know. I don't have the particulars. I don't think anybody knows what to expect. That's part of it. Maybe they have a better sense of what's going to happen but I don't have the sense of the nature of it all. I'll be like everybody else and watching."
Wednesday's practice at the team's training facility in Fort Lauderdale was relatively mild. Pitchers participated in fielding drills. Position players took batting practice. About the only thing missing were the towering home runs usually hit by Sosa and Palmeiro, who likely would not have made the Vero Beach trip anyway. After practice, players quietly returned to the clubhouse and headed home.
Thursday's hearing begins at 10 a.m., but it's unlikely any of the Orioles will be able to watch the broadcast live. The group playing against the St. Louis Cardinals will be on a bus headed to Jupiter, Fla. The others will be on the field for a workout. Palmeiro and Sosa are expected to return for Florida on Thursday night and be ready to play Friday against the Minnesota Twins.
"I'm sure I'll see highlights," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "But is it the biggest thing in the world for me? No. It's hard to really say. I'm interested to see what comes out of it a little bit. But for the most part I don't think it will end up affecting us all that much individually. I don't know how I feel about them having to go and do this. Obviously it's unprecedented so everybody is going to have a little bit of interest."
Several Orioles said they hoped the hearing will restore Sosa's and Palmeiro's reputations.
"I think that guys' names could be cleared," Roberts said. "No matter what happens, people are going to believe what they want to believe. You hope that maybe it changes a majority of opinions. But you just have to wait and see, I guess."
"All the guys they put on that list they suspect of steroid use -- except [Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt] Schilling," reliever Steve Kline said. "If they ask them the questions and they say the truth, then the truth will set them free. But it's a hard thing to clear up your name."
Although the Orioles don't know what will be asked, they refuse to believe their teammates' answers will shock them. Throughout the spring the team has supported both players. Owner Peter Angelos, shortly after Jose Canseco accused Palmeiro of steroid use, steadfastly supported his first baseman.
"I don't have any apprehension," Flanagan said. "I think whatever happens, happens. But I don't have any inner feelings that something is going to happen [that is] outrageous. I just don't have that sense."