Palmeiro to earn $3 million

Updated: October 27, 2004, 7:16 PM ET
SportsTicker

BALTIMORE -- Rafael Palmeiro didn't want his homecoming with the Baltimore Orioles to end after just one season, so he took a pay cut and accepted a one-year, $3 million contract Wednesday.

Rafael Palmeiro
First Base
Baltimore Orioles
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI R SB AVG
154 23 88 68 2 .258

Palmeiro, 40, returned to the Orioles this season after a five-year absence. He batted .258 with 23 homers and 88 RBIs -- the first time since 1994 that he failed to hit at least 38 homers and drive in 100 runs.

He had a clause in his $4.5 million contract that called for him to receive an identical sum in 2005 if he played in 140 games at first base, but Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli drastically reduced Palmeiro's playing time in the field as the season drew to a close.

Palmeiro finished with 128 games at first base -- only eight after Sept. 7.

But Palmeiro enjoyed playing in Baltimore, where he spent five seasons during the 1990s, and decided it would be better to come back to a comfortable environment than to become a free agent.

"I'm very happy. Otherwise, I wouldn't be returning," he said in a phone interview from his Texas home. "What happened last year is in the past. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm more concerned with moving forward."

Palmeiro played a key role in the Orioles' return to respectability this season. Baltimore ended a six-year run of fourth-place finishes in the AL East, closing in third place with a 78-84 record.

"He was a valuable part of our offense," Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "I think he's a very good fit for us."

Palmeiro agreed.

"I said last year that I wanted to retire as an Oriole. That hasn't changed," he said. "Not that this is necessarily my last year. But I wanted to show the fans in Baltimore and (Orioles owner) Peter Angelos that I was serious when I said I wanted to end my career here and, if I'm fortunate enough to get elected to the Hall of Fame, that I want to go in as an Oriole."

Palmeiro ranks 10th on the career list with 551 homers and is just 78 hits short of 3,000, a milestone he should easily reach in 2005. His primary objective, however, is helping the Orioles become contenders.

"Obviously, it would mean a lot more to me to do it in an Orioles uniform, but getting to 3,000 is not my main focus," he said. "Most of all, I want this team to be a winner. I'm going to try to be more of a vocal leader next season; I got away from that this year."

Palmeiro once carried the Orioles with his bat, yet he struggled for much of this season before getting hot in September. He hit .306 with nine homers and 25 RBIs over his final 29 games, and plans to pick up where he left off next April.

"My knowledge of the game and ability to hit will always be there, but I lacked the strength and bat-speed that I had in the past," he said. "I hope that weightlifting and conditioning will get me back to that level, so that the balls I hit to the warning track in center will now go out of the park."

Beattie said Palmeiro will get most of his starts in 2005 as the designated hitter. The new contract contains no performance incentives.

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