Only three weeks ago, a reunion between Rafael Palmeiro and the Baltimore Orioles seemed unlikely. But hard feelings caused by a contract option for 2005 that was purposely not vested have dissipated.

The Orioles announced Palmeiro signed a one-year deal to remain and be the team's designated hitter. Terms were not disclosed.

"I wanted to return to Baltimore," Palmeiro said in a telephone interview. "That's my city. That's my team."

"Well, you never know how negotiations are going to go," Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie said. "I think we got it done pretty quickly."

Last season Palmeiro, 40, hit .258 with 23 home runs. It was the first time since 1992 that he did not hit at least 30 homers. With his numbers declining, the Orioles decided not to play him 140 games in the field, which would have triggered a $4.5 million option for the 2005 season.

Palmeiro needs 78 hits to become the fourth player in baseball history to collect 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Willie Mays, Eddie Murray and Hank Aaron are the others.

"I prefer to do it out there in front of the Baltimore fans instead of anywhere else," Palmeiro said.

He said he was intent on returning to Baltimore: "It's a good team. I think we have a chance to win. I like playing for [Manager Lee] Mazzilli."

-- Jorge Arangure Jr.