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Longtime MLB first baseman Rafael Palmeiro is considering a comeback at age 53, 12 years after his last game in the major leagues.
On Wednesday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic passed along comments from the four-time All-Star, who remains confident in his physical abilities.
“There’s no doubt in my mind I can do it,” Palmeiro said. “I’ve taken care of myself really well. I’ve been working out for years. Everything feels better than when I played.”
The Cuba native was one of baseball’s most consistent hitters across his 20-year career, which included two stints apiece with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles after starting with the Chicago Cubs in 1986.
He posted a .288/.371/.515 triple-slash line with 569 home runs across 2,831 regular-season games. Along with his quartet of All-Star appearances, he also earned three straight Gold Glove Awards starting in 1997 and won back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards in 1998 and 1999.
His playing days came to an end on a low note, however, after he received a 10-day suspension from MLB after testing positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid, in 2005.
Palmeiro told Rosenthal the suspension was a “perfect storm that basically destroyed me” and continues to say he never knowingly took any performance-enhancing substances.
“Maybe 12 years later, I can prove to the whole world that I didn’t need anything to have a good career,” he said. “Maybe 12 years later, if I can come back and prove I don’t need anything as an older player with an older body, then people might think, ‘OK, maybe he didn’t do anything intentionally.'”
At 53, it’s unclear whether Palmeiro could still contribute in the field—he said he’s still capable of playing first base—or if he’d be relegated to serving as a DH. Regardless, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette told The Athletic that Palmeiro’s comeback would be an “interesting story,” adding, “It’s like tying your shoes … If you can hit, then you can hit.”
All told, it’s an extreme long shot Palmeiro makes it back to the majors, but he told Rosenthal he’d love the opportunity to “walk away feeling good about the whole body of work” after proving he could still play at the sport’s highest level.