SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles have invited Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer to spring-training camp, and it now seems likely he will report to Twin Lakes Park this weekend to continue an unlikely comeback attempt.
Palmer said last week that he would be reluctant to accept such an invitation if he thought it would endanger his broadcasting career, but WMAR-TV removed that obstacle by assuring him that his place on the Orioles telecast team will be waiting for him if he fails to win a place on the Orioles pitching staff.
"We are in the process of considering a proposal the Orioles have given us," said agent Ron Shapiro. "The reason why it could work out is that WMAR very graciously wanted to give him the time to pursue this opportunity. They are willing to be flexible and give us time. Jim was concerned about losing the TV opportunity if this didn't work out. That is no longer the case."
WMAR president and general manager Arnold Kleiner explained that the television station can afford to be patient. Palmer is part of a four-man broadcast team that also includes Jon Miller, Brooks Robinson and Scott Garceau. The station will go with three broadcasters until Palmer's future is more clear.
"It's real simple," Kleiner said. "We want Jim to be happy. If that [trying out with the Orioles] is what he wants to do, that's what we want him to do. I didn't want to force Jim into a decision that's safe. We are very fortunate that we don't have a shortage of quality broadcasters."
Palmer was on a business trip yesterday and was not available for comment. Shapiro said the Orioles proposal still was being discussed and a final decision from Palmer might be forthcoming early today.
Club president Larry Lucchino confirmed that a spring-training audition is being discussed. He also cautioned that many of the details have not been worked out.
"We are discussing his participation in training camp," Lucchino dTC said, "but there has been no final resolution."
If Palmer agrees to report with the pitchers and catchers tomorrow, he will arrive at Twin Lakes Park as an extreme long shot to make the club. The Orioles have plenty of candidates for the 1991 pitching staff, most of them starters. The presence of a 45-year-old Hall of Famer will make headlines, but it also could create headaches for manager Frank Robinson, who is faced with a heavy workload in spring training.
Orioles officials concede that the Palmer comeback could become a spring-training distraction, but the club does not appear to have any alternative other than to bring him to camp if he wants to come. He is too popular a figure in Baltimore to be ignored.
It has been nearly seven years since Palmer last pitched competitively, but he worked out for Baltimore scout Miguel Machado three times in the past week and apparently displayed enough velocity and control to make an extended look justified.
If there is an element of obligation involved on the part of the Orioles, Palmer said last weekend that he wants no part of it. He doesn't consider his comeback attempt a publicity stunt, and doesn't want it used for public-relations purposes.
"I don't want to come to camp just to be coming," he said Saturday. "That wouldn't make sense. Just being invited to spring training doesn't mean you're going to get a chance."