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Former slugger to work with Burroughs

3/17/2004 - San Diego Padres

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ken Caminiti is back in baseball, at least temporarily, as a spring training instructor with
the San Diego Padres.

"I've been trying to stay away from it. Just everything that's
happened. Shamed, embarrassed, whatever. I just stayed away,"
Caminiti said Wednesday.

"I was nervous coming here. You don't know what to expect. I
still don't know what the hell I'm doing. Just walking around with
a fungo in my hand," the former San Diego slugger and Gold Glove
winner said.

Padres owner John Moores and general manager Kevin Towers
figured it would be good for Caminiti to get back into baseball,
even for a few weeks. It took some prodding, and he finally arrived
in camp on Tuesday.

"I feel I have a lot to offer," said Caminiti, who'll work
with third baseman Sean Burroughs and be available to talk with
players about his various experiences.

After the Atlanta Braves dropped Caminiti from their roster for
the 2001 NL championship series, "I walked out, and I got in all
that trouble," he said. "From there it was downhill. It's been a
good cleanup period for me. It's been real positive."

Caminiti was arrested on drug possession charges in November
2001 after authorities said he was found in a Houston hotel room
with crack. He pleaded guilty the following March and was placed on
three years' probation and fined $2,000. He tested positive for
cocaine use in January 2003 and was ordered to a state-run drug
treatment facility.

In May 2002, Caminiti told Sports Illustrated that he used
steroids during his MVP season in 1996 with the Padres, when he hit
a career-high .326 with 40 home runs and 130 RBI. He estimated
half the players in the big leagues were also using them.

On Wednesday, Caminiti briefly touched on why he began using
steroids, but declined to comment on baseball's current steroids
scandal.

"Maybe at another date," he said. "Right now, you know what,
they're pretty much doing a good job of getting steroids away from
everybody. I don't really care to discuss it. I guess everybody's
really scared to talk about it. Maybe that's why I got in so much
trouble with it, because everybody was scared to talk about it at
first.

"Maybe that's another reason I stayed away for so long. I
thought I stepped on a lot of players, which I never intended to
do," he said.

Caminiti said he hasn't paid attention to the case against the
Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

"Every time there's something about baseball and steroids, I
just turn the sound down. I don't read about it, I don't want to
know about it," he said.

Caminiti, a switch-hitter, tore his left rotator cuff early in
the 1996 season. He played through the pain the rest of the year,
leading the Padres to the NL West title and winning the MVP
unanimously.

Caminiti's shoulder required
reconstructive surgery that offseason.

"The lack of strength in
it, that's when everything happened for me," he said. "That's when I started
experimenting with things here and there, trying to make my
shoulder strong, just getting it to where I could lift it."

Asked specifically about using steroids, he said:

"I don't know if they put me on the field. They might have
enhanced my play. But I would have played with it anyway. Steroids
didn't kill the pain."

Caminiti said he also used a substance that stimulated his
body's production of hormones.

"I just abused that," he said.

With his Popeye-like forearms, the 40-year-old Caminiti still
looks as if he could walk up to home plate and swat a ball over the
fence. But there are touches of gray in his goatee and his face
looks haggard.

Caminiti, who's also battled alcohol abuse, said his problems
are behind him "as long as I want them behind me. I've got to just
be happy and take care of myself. You know what? I say that just
because I've relapsed enough to know. It can sneak up on you
anytime. You've just got to be realistic. I'm really not as scared
to talk about it as I used to be, just because I've had so many
problems with it."

Last September, as the Padres played their final games at
Qualcomm Stadium, Caminiti was a guest of Moores and received a
standing ovation.

"It was pretty touching," Caminiti said. "It was by far the
best feeling I've had in a baseball setting."