The Orioles yesterday intensified their quest to add a veteran starter when club president Larry Lucchino and general manager Roland Hemond met with the agent for three prominent free-agent pitchers, including Cincinnati lefthander Danny Jackson.
The meeting took place in the law office of Ron Shapiro, the Baltimore-based attorney who represents Jackson, Boston righthander Mike Boddicker and Seattle lefthander Matt Young. Shapiro was joined by his associate, Michael Maas, and the two sides spoke for nearly an hour, Hemond said.
The parties plan to continue talking. The Orioles' primary focus is thought to be Jackson, but a second source indicated the club remains interested in "a couple of different players," meaning Boddicker and possibly Young.
The exact nature of yesterday's conversation is not known. Under the most likely scenario, the Orioles exchanged preliminary contract ideas with Shapiro without actually making formal proposals for any of the three free agents.
"It was a necessary step in the process," Lucchino said after returning to his Memorial Stadium office, "but we're not going to discuss the content of the meeting or the status of the negotiations."
Shapiro was unavailable for comment.
If nothing else, the meeting stands as the clearest evidence yet of the Orioles' willingness to sign free agents. The club also has expressed serious interest in Houston first baseman/outfielder Franklin Stubbs, but his agent, Jim Turner, reported no new talks yesterday.
Jackson, who turns 29 in January, finished 6-6 with a 3.61 ERA last season for the world champion Reds. He has made five trips to the disabled list the past two seasons, but he won 23 games in 1988 and probably represents the best value for the Orioles.
Young, 32, is attractive for similar reasons -- he is lefthanded, and he would not cost the Orioles a draft pick. Coming off reconstructive elbow surgery, he finished 8-18 with a 3.51 ERA last season, but ranked among the AL leaders in complete games (seven), innings (225 1/3 ) and strikeouts (176).
As impressive as that sounds, the Orioles' secondary interest is believed to be Boddicker, whom they traded to Boston for outfielder Brady Anderson and pitcher Curt Schilling on July 30, 1988. The problem is he might be out of their price range.
Boddicker, 33, has gone 39-22 since the trade, including 17-8 last season. He reportedly has drawn interest from eight to 10 clubs, and the two Chicago teams are believed to be the front-runners. Boddicker, a native of Norway, Iowa, has made no secret of his desire to return to the Midwest.
The Red Sox made him a new three-year offer Tuesday, but they are facing the possibility Boddicker will seek an even longer contract.
Boddicker said last summer he didn't think the Orioles would attempt to sign him, and he still might be right. But the club is dabbling in free agency far more seriously than anyone expected, and a major signing no longer would qualify as a surprise.