BALTIMORE (AP) – Rafael Palmeiro has lost his job as the Baltimore Orioles’ regular first baseman, the result of a prolonged slump that began after he returned from a 10-day suspension for testing positive for steroids.

Mired in a 2-for-22 skid in which he has gone hitless in his last 14 at-bats, the left-handed hitting Palmeiro did not start Monday against Oakland right-hander Kirk Saarloos.

Asked if he sees Palmeiro as the team’s everyday first baseman for the rest of the season, Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo responded, “No, I don’t, but if he would swing the bat he would be. I don’t have a problem with playing everyone that can help us on a regular basis.”

Palmeiro was hitting .280 with 18 homers and 59 RBIs at the time of his suspension. Since his return, he has no homers and just one RBI in six games. His batting average has also dropped 12 points to .268.

“I’m slumping, man, I’m slumping. I would do the same, I’m sure,” Palmeiro said after watching Monday’s 10-5 loss from the dugout. “That’s fine. I’ll get my chances and I’ll get out of it. When I get out of it, he’ll play me more.”

Palmeiro was batting .222 on May 15, but broke out with a four-hit game two days later at Kansas City and became a key force in helping the Orioles hang onto first place in the AL East until June 24.

“It’s a different situation now, but I’ll have some good games. I’ll just do what I can,” Palmeiro said. “It’s his decision. We’ve got one month left, and if he wants to play everyone, I’m fine with it. I’m going to do whatever he asks me to do.”

Palmeiro, who was 1-for-2 with a homer and three walks lifetime against Saarloos, was replaced in the lineup Monday by rookie Alejandro Freire, a right-handed batter who went 2-for-3 to raise his batting average to .333.

AP-ES-08-29-05 1941EDT

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