-- The Baltimore Orioles sent Rafael Palmeiro home to Texas to rehabilitate injuries, but the slugger said Monday that he has not ruled out playing in 2006, despite a disappointing past two months that have included a steroid suspension, a batting slump and stinging boos from fans at home and on the road.

"Obviously, I would love to play and come back and finish and hopefully to prove to everyone that I can still play at a high level, that I can still be productive and do it the right way, which I've always done," he said. ". . . I would love to have that opportunity, but I have a lot of things to think about and a lot of things to weigh."

Palmeiro skipped the series at Boston for testing on his right knee, which he re-injured in Toronto, and he also has pain in his right ankle. Despite returning to Texas, he said he still expects to play again this season.

Palmeiro recorded his 3,000th hit on July 15, but on Aug. 1 he was suspended by Major League Baseball for using a banned substance. Palmeiro, who will turn 41 in three weeks, said the struggles since then could play a part in whether he returns.

Last week in Toronto, Palmeiro wore ear plugs to drown out boos. He has also had woes at the plate, hitting 2 for 26 since then. For the year, Palmeiro is batting .266 with 18 home runs and 60 RBI.

Sosa Is Back, Sort Of

Outfielder Sammy Sosa rejoined the team Monday, a day after interim manager Sam Perlozzo said that he did not know the injured slugger's whereabouts. Sosa has been on the disabled list since Aug. 28, after he had a lesion removed from his right big toe, and he is eligible to return on Sept. 10. Sosa is batting .221 with 14 home runs and 45 RBI.