-- Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro will return to the team Thursday after serving a 10-day suspension for using steroids but will not discuss his failed drug test, his agent said. Arn Tellem, who last week said Palmeiro would give his side of the story "soon," said Palmeiro has been advised not to comment.
The House Government Reform Committee is investigating whether Palmeiro committed perjury when he told its members on March 17 that he had never used steroids.
"Raffy is cooperating fully with the [committee] as it completes its work on this issue," Tellem said in an e-mail. "He has been advised to hold his public statements on the issue until the Congress can finish its work."
It was unclear why the advisers would not let Palmeiro speak.
Palmeiro's decision to withhold information is strictly his own and does not reflect direction given by the committee, a source close to the situation said. "There is no legal reason why they can't comment," the source said.
According to one baseball source, the Orioles tried to persuade Palmeiro to discuss the issue, but his representatives were set against revealing any information. The two sides went back and forth until the Orioles, at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, released a statement by Tellem saying that "it would not be appropriate to comment while the [committee] is doing its work. Pending review by that committee, there will be no other public comment. Raffy looks forward to rejoining the Orioles tomorrow, and he will focus his attention on baseball."
Tellem would not specify whether Palmeiro will ever comment publicly on his positive test.
The committee has not received the paperwork on Palmeiro's testing but expects it this week. Chairman Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) declined to comment until the paperwork has been reviewed.
It appears likely Palmeiro will finish the season with the Orioles despite the objections of some in the Baltimore front office, who had hoped the first baseman would retire. Executive Vice President Jim Beattie and Vice President Mike Flanagan declined to comment. Owner Peter Angelos, who is fond of Palmeiro, did not return a phone call.
"It's between Raffy and the owner," a source close to the Orioles said. "Our owner is compassionate to a fault. I'm not saying that as a negative. But at some point you have to let somebody stand on their own."
Interim manager Sam Perlozzo said before Wednesday's game that he wasn't certain whether Palmeiro would be in the starting lineup Thursday. The manager said Palmeiro, busy dealing with the fallout from his positive test result, probably hadn't practiced during his 10-day absence.
The Orioles braced themselves for what will likely be a hectic day on Thursday.
"I don't imagine the reaction is going to be good by any means," Orioles outfielder David Newhan said. "It's tough for a guy like Alex Sanchez. A guy like Rafael Palmeiro is going to be tenfold. I think it's going to be ugly. We already heard some of it in Anaheim. People asking where Raffy is and they know for sure where he was. It's going to be bad and you can only imagine what they're going to be saying."
The task of keeping the team focused will fall on Perlozzo.
"This team's job is go out and play baseball," Perlozzo said. "We feel there is a system in place that takes care of that business. I'm sure Raffy will talk to everybody on the ballclub. After that our job is to go out on the field. We expect him to help us. Our job is to play baseball."
Media reports circulated on Wednesday that Palmeiro's positive test result was the first of what will be many. One newspaper said as many as 50 players would be named. Those reports apparently are not accurate.
According to a statement issued by Major League Baseball and the players' union, "Reports of large numbers of positive tests currently unreported are totally false. Reports of big-name players having the reporting of their test results delayed are totally false. All drug-testing results are processed in precisely the same manner, and without regard to the identity of any player or to the volume of positives at any given time. These media reports and rumors are totally, and completely inaccurate, and do not deserve further comment."