BALTIMORE (AP) – Rafael Palmeiro was sent home to Texas to rehabilitate knee and ankle injuries, leaving his baseball future unclear during a season in which he was suspended for a positive steroids test.

Palmeiro’s season unraveled soon after he collected his 3,000th career hit on July 15. He received a 10-day suspension on Aug. 1 for failing a drug test, and upon his return was booed by fans in Baltimore and on the road.

He is 2-for-26 with one RBI since coming back, and has been bothered the past two weeks by injuries to his left ankle and right knee. The Orioles still expect him to play this month, but decided Monday that the first baseman should go home to recover.

“It is in his and the Orioles best interests for Palmeiro to stay off the knee as much as possible to allow it to heal completely,” the team said in statement. “At the same time, remaining with the team while unable to play has created an unnecessary distraction for both Palmeiro and the ballclub.”

Palmeiro, who has not played since Tuesday in Toronto, left for Texas shortly after the Orioles’ 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Monday.

“We will monitor him and bring him back at the end when he’s ready,” interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. “We definitely feel like he’s going to play again this year. I’d like to see him get back for the last 10 days, anyway.”

Things can’t get much worse for Palmeiro, who’s experiencing a one-of-a-kind season for all the wrong reasons.

“Everything just kind of crumbled, unexpectedly really. I never expected that anything would happen to me, not at this stage of my career anyway,” he said before Monday’s game. “I’ve played my whole career pretty much injury free.

“There’s been no controversy in my life at all, on and off the field. I’ve always been a type of person that does it the right way and follows the rules and does the right thing for the most part.”

This isn’t the way Palmeiro, 40, wanted to go out. For that reason he’s still considering coming back next season.

“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 just don’t know. I can’t look that far ahead and predict what’s going to happen. I would love to have that opportunity, but I have a lot of things to think about and a lot of things to weigh.”

Ending his season at this point, however, is not in his immediate plans.

“Raffy doesn’t want to shut it down yet. He doesn’t want to walk away from this thing without playing again,” Perlozzo said. “If he looks like he can help us with a couple of at-bats here and there, we’ll see what happens.”

In March, Palmeiro told Congress that he never took steroids. Upon receiving the suspension, Palmeiro insisted that he never intentionally took a banned performance-enhancing drug. When he returned, he said he would not address the case until Congress concludes its ongoing investigation on whether Palmeiro committed perjury with his testimony in March.

His decision on retirement won’t be influenced by the backlash he has received since the suspension.

“If I had to make a decision right then, I probably wouldn’t play,” he said. “But I am not going to shy away from something like what happened to me like that. I am going to face it and I am going to do what I can. Hopefully, I can explain myself one day, and whether people believe me or not, I can’t control that.”

Palmeiro never wanted a farewell tour or a lavish ceremony before his final game. He always intended to make a decision over the offseason, which he will, but now must factor in the suspension, his injuries and a late-season slump that has dropped his batting average to .266 – 23 points below his career mark.

“I wasn’t going to make this huge announcement. I wasn’t going to have a parade going out around the country at all the ballparks. That’s not what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to sit down and make a good decision and feel good about it, like This is it, I am done, I enjoyed the ride and it’s time to do something else.’

“But obviously, that’s not going to happen.”

AP-ES-09-05-05 1930EDT

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