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Publish Date: 9/20/2005

Piedra questioned about Palmeiro
Rockies defense commits three errors in loss


DENVER — It’s the Colorado Rockies’ final homestand of 2005, and they’re stuck in last place. Yet juicy topics abound.

Following San Diego’s 8-7 victory Monday night, the most intriguing involved Rockies outfielder Jorge Piedra. Piedra discussed an Associated Press story from Washington that moved earlier in the evening that reported congressional investigators, looking into whether Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro lied under oath, interviewed Piedra. The article cited an anonymous source saying Congress has talked to “several active players” who know the Orioles star.

Palmeiro infamously told the House Government Reform Committee in March that he never had used steroids. Major League Baseball suspended him for 10 days in August for failing a drug test. Baseball also suspended Piedra for 10 days in April for violating its policy on performance- enhancing drugs.

Piedra on Monday confirmed the report. He said investigators contacted his lawyer, then him. Piedra said the talk happened a week ago and lasted a few minutes.

Piedra said they discussed the extent of his relationship with Palmeiro. The Rockies outfielder said it was tough answering the questions.

“He’s one of the greatest players; obviously, I’m not going to condemn him for something I’ve done, too,” Piedra said. “Whether he took something or he didn’t, he’s still one of the best to ever step on the field.

“It was what it was. We worked out a few times at the same gym, and that was that.”

Piedra had a pinch-hit single with two outs in the ninth off San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman. Clint Barmes followed Piedra and represented the winning run, recalling images of opening day, when Barmes hit a game-winning home run off Hoffman. This time, however, Hoffman coaxed a harmless pop out from Barmes to convert his 36th straight save.

“It’s not like nobody was looking for it,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said about Barmes’ shot at déjà vu. “But that was a special at-bat. Hoffman is a tough number out there.”

San Diego’s Khalil Greene homered, his second of the night, off Rockies closer Brian Fuentes on the second pitch of the ninth inning. It was Fuentes’ first defeat since May 18.

The Rockies let starter Sunny Kim labor through 52/3 innings, during which he allowed 11 hits and seven runs, six earned. He also gave up three home runs.

Hurdle said he wanted to see how Kim, who’s basically auditioning for a roster spot in 2006, would respond to the adversity. But he also said better defense behind him — the Rockies committed three errors — hurt.

“We have a young club; we’re going to make some mistakes,” Hurdle said. “We’re not out of the woods on that yet, and we’re not going to be for a while.”

Kim said he left his fastballs up Monday night.

“I had a bad feeling in my body, so I lost a little bit of my pitching,” he said. “(I felt) pretty good in warmups, but in the game I tried too much.

“They don’t know me in the organization. Every time when I pitch, I can go seven or eight innings. They don’t know me, so my last two starts, I tried to do my best and go to the eighth inning.”

The teams exchanged the lead four times and combined for 29 hits. San Diego (75-74) increased its lead in the National League West to six games over the second-place Giants. Both teams have 13 games remaining as the Padres try to win the division with a record near the .500 mark.

The Rockies might hope to be .500 next year. All of Monday’s deeds came before 18,238, the third-smallest home crowd in franchise history. And they also came as the Rockies began this week’s organizational meetings, during which they’ll mull several decisions about the franchise’s future.

“We’re not going to let intangibles change our course of direction,” Hurdle said.

“There are no shortcuts. We want to build something that’s going to last.”

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