'I don't wish it on anybody,' Giambi says

Updated: August 2, 2005, 7:49 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Stung by suspicion himself, New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi expressed concern and compassion for Rafael Palmeiro, the Baltimore Orioles slugger who was suspended 10 days for testing positive for steroids.

It is just an unfortunate thing that happened. I don't wish it on anybody.
Jason Giambi

"My heart goes out to him and his family," Giambi said Tuesday at Jacobs Field before the Yankees played the Cleveland Indians.

On Monday, Palmeiro became the highest-profile player to be penalized by Major League Baseball's toughened drug policy, which went into effect in March. Seattle pitcher Ryan Franklin was suspended for 10 games on Tuesday for testing positive.

Giambi, whose reputation has been tainted by the ongoing steroid scandal, was reluctant to speak directly about Palmeiro's case.

"I don't know all the facts so I can't really comment on it," Giambi said. "I don't know everything that has gone into it. I know that Raffy has always been supportive and a great guy to me."

In February, Giambi, who has publicly denied ever using steroids, held a news conference at Yankee Stadium after it was revealed he had told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he took steroids.

At the news conference, a nervous Giambi said he was sorry but failed to explain why he was apologizing. Since then, rumors have trailed the 34-year-old, who has been on a recent hitting tear.

Giambi hit 14 homers in July, becoming the first Yankee to hit that many in a month since Mickey Mantle in 1961. He was hitting a season-low .195 on May 9, but has raised his average to .286.

While he was surprised to learn that Palmeiro tested positive, Giambi said it in no way affected they way he felt about his friend.

"He has accomplished unbelievable things," Giambi said. "It is just an unfortunate thing that happened. I don't wish it on anybody."

Like many players, Giambi feels the drug policy is working.

"It is definitely making a difference, no doubt about it," Giambi said. "It is something that everybody wanted to accomplish and it is doing what it is supposed to do."

When asked if he believes Palmeiro should be considered for the Hall of Fame, Giambi declined comment, saying that he could not formulate an opinion because he does not have all the facts.

Along with Giambi, several other Yankees were stunned by Palmeiro's suspension.

"When I heard it, I couldn't believe it," said Ruben Sierra, Palmeiro's teammate in Texas. "I look at Raffy and I don't see a big-muscle guy who looks like he's on steroids -- all I see is that sweet swing.

"When we played together, I saw him as a line-drive hitter with power. I was surprised he got 500 homers, but then again he's got such a sweet swing. He's not one of those guys who hits the ball so far all the time. But he hits it just far enough, just over the fence."

Palmeiro insists he did not intentionally take any banned substance, a claim that was backed by Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, another former teammate.

"The question is: How did he get it? What did it come in?" Mussina said. "Do you know everything that you take in? I think we can control it to a point."

Mussina, the Yankees' union representative, said it would be helpful if players had list of substances to watch out for.

"There's not a list of products that are 100 percent safe," he said. "I know there is a list of products that will test positive. What's on the label and what's in the container are not the same thing."

Yankees manager Joe Torre was most concerned by how the suspension hurts the integrity of the game.

"It's disappointing for baseball," Torre said. "The doubt is there, that's the problem. The only way to clear it up is to let people know what the mistake was."

As far as Palmeiro making the Hall of Fame, Torre said the suspension could overshadow his spectacular statistics.

"It's now a slam dunk that is not a slam dunk," he said. "You see 500 homers and 3,000 hits, but this throws a monkey wrench into it."

Torre said the Yankees have taken measures to ensure that nothing available for players to ingest in the clubhouse could have the slightest hint of being a banned substance.

"We have gum, that's pretty much it," he said. "Most of the other stuff was just drinks, but anything with any curiosity, we have eliminated."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press