CLEVELAND (AP) – Rafael Palmeiro’s season of suspension and suspicion has hit another, smaller snag.

Palmeiro, the highest-profile major leaguer to be suspended for steroid use, was not in Baltimore’s starting lineup again on Saturday because of a sprained ankle and he’s unlikely to play again until early next week.

The 40-year-old first baseman has been sidelined since rolling his right ankle while running out a grounder on Tuesday in Oakland. Before thunderstorms shook Jacobs Field on Saturday, Palmeiro did some jogging in the outfield grass and underwent medical treatment in the trainer’s room for the nagging injury.

“At this rate, I’m going to play first base on Tuesday,” Palmeiro said. “I can’t wait around anymore. When I go back out there, I want to be able to play first.”

Palmeiro estimated he’s at about “50 to 60 percent” and said he would only be available to pinch-hit in the final two games of the series with the Indians. Baltimore is off on Monday before opening a series at home Tuesday against Anaheim.

“We’ll probably give him the rest of the weekend off,” Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. “There is no sense in taking a chance if he’s not 100 percent. We want to make sure he’s good and strong by Tuesday.”

Palmeiro had thought he would be ready to play by Friday, but his ankle was still too sore.

He has played in only two games since returning from his 10-day suspension for using steroids. Palmeiro has claimed that he didn’t know how the drug got in his body. He has been advised by his attorneys not to comment on his situation until Congress concludes its investigation of his case.

On Friday, Palmeiro said that before the season he thought 2005 would be his last in the majors.

“I was almost sure that this was going to be it,” he said. “I don’t know now what I’m going to do. There are other things in my life. My kids are older, and my son is in the 10th grade and I need to be there for him. We live in Texas, and we are apart too much. This is my 20th year.

“I’m not sure for what purpose other than to win that I would keep playing. But this (scandal) is not going to determine whether I play or not.”

AP-ES-08-20-05 1802EDT

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