Jim Palmer is likely to be getting company on the University of Miami baseball field where he is trying to pitch his way back to the major leagues.
A number of teams apparently will dispatch scouts to Florida to watch the former Baltimore Orioles great and Hall of Famer work himself back into pitching shape, said Ron Shapiro, Palmer's lawyer.
"More than several have expressed interest in seeing him," Shapiro said yesterday. He wouldn't name them, but Palmer has said the Chicago White Sox want to have a look, and Orioles president Larry Lucchino said this week that the team wants to see Palmer when he's ready to be seen.
"Our position is that we have a great deal of respect and admiration for Jim Palmer," Lucchino said. "He's an Orioles alumnus, which gives him a special status."
Lucchino said the Orioles hadn't talked formally yet with Palmer about various options, including the possibility that the right-hander, who hasn't thrown a big-league pitch since May 1984, might come to spring training with the team. But he said that probably would happen sometime soon.
"When he gets to the stage when he is ready, we'll certainly talk," Lucchino said.
Palmer, 45, pitched 18 seasons in the big leagues, all with the Orioles, before he was released by the team after injuries and middle age forced him out of the starting rotation and off the roster. He never announced his retirement and has toyed with the idea of a comeback since, although never committing himself full time to getting back into pitching shape until recently.
Last August, five years after his unofficial retirement, and in his first year of eligibility, Palmer was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame. If his comeback succeeds, he'd be the first player to appear in a majorleague game as a Hall of Famer.
Although Palmer is taking his comeback seriously, it's difficult to say how seriously he is being taken by major-league executives. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said he wasn't aware that his scouts planned to see Palmer throw, but said that wasn't unusual for purely a "baseball decision."
Asked for his reaction to Palmer pitching for the White Sox, Reinsdorf said, in one way, it seemed perfect.
"We've already got Charlie Hough [43 years old] and Carlton Fisk . He'd come in and we'd start a nursing home," Reinsdorf said. "Jim Palmer was a great pitcher and he's a bright guy. I wouldn't put anything past him."