Former Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro is considering attempting a return to the majors — at age 53.
Palmeiro, who is one of just five players in big league history with 3,000 hits and 500 homers — told The Athletic he’s confident he could help a major league club if given the opportunity.
“There’s no doubt in my mind I can do it,” Palmeiro told The Athletic. “I’ve taken care of myself really well. I’ve been working out for years. Everything feels better than when I played.”
Part of the reason Palmeiro is considering a comeback is to seek redemption after the disgraceful way his career ended with the Orioles amid a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in 2005, weeks after making a finger-wagging denial of taking PEDs during a Congressional hearing.
Since then, Palmeiro’s career has been stained as he became one of the faces of the PED era. Despite his Hall of Fame credentials, he was removed from the Hall of Fame ballot after just four years because he did not receive enough votes to remain eligible. Palmeiro is also notably absent from the Orioles Hall of Fame.
“I want to prove to myself I can do it on a high level,” Palmeiro told The Athletic, “then walk away feeling good about the whole body of work.”
Palmeiro told The Athletic that he’s not interested in playing independent ball to show he can still play, saying he believes if he’s given the opportunity to make a major league club in spring training, he can prove he belongs on his own merit. Palmeiro is already four years older than Julio Franco was when he was the oldest player to play in the majors. Franco played his final game 25 days after his 49th birthday.
“If I go to spring training with a legitimate chance to make the team, I won’t have to go to the minors,” Palmeiro said.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told The Athletic he believes a Palmeiro return “would be an interesting story,” adding, “it’s like tying your shoes. … If you can hit, then you can hit.”
Palmeiro, who played parts of seven seasons with the Orioles — including four straight 30-homer, 100-RBI campaigns — ranks seventh on the team’s all-time home run list with 223 homers and eighth in RBIs (701).
His youngest son, Preston, is an Orioles farmhand who hit .253/.319/.399 with 13 homers and 77 RBIs in 127 games for Low-A Delmarva in his first full pro season out of North Carolina State. Palmeiro’s oldest son, Patrick, played three seasons in the Chicago White Sox minor league system and spent 2017 playing for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League.