Dwight Evans joined fellow Baltimore Orioles veteran Glenn Davis yesterday by formally filing for free agency.
But Evans said from his Massachusetts home last night that he was comfortable playing here last season and would be highly receptive to returning.
"I have a great deal of respect for the Baltimore Orioles and more so for the fans," said Evans, who turned 40 Sunday. "I knew they were good fans, but I didn't realize how much I really enjoyed myself."
He indicated the filing was a self-protective measure and that he would desire nothing more than an agreeable deal with the Orioles.
"I want to come back," said Evans. "But I just want to see what's available and get the best deal that I can. I'm just doing what I'm entitled to and what I have to do."
Evans played in 101 games for the Orioles last season, started 58 in right field and became the team's best pinch hitter (10-for-25).
The Orioles signed him as a free agent after the Boston Red Sox decided not to offer him a contract after 1990. He was restricted to designated-hitter duties that year because of a bone spur in his back.
But Evans, who has 385 lifetime home runs, proved to be healthy, batted .270 (two points below his career average) and stretched his active lead in games played to 2,606.
"I am of a mind-set that I can still help the team," he said. "But I
want to see what they do to improve the club. I'll be watching that.
"And I'd like to play for Johnny Oates. He's my kind of manager. I have respect for him because he respects you."
Roland Hemond, who is attending the major-league general managers' meetings in Florida, said the Orioles are interested in retaining Evans.
"Yes, we would like to have him back," said Hemond. "He was anxious to prove something last season, and he did it. His filing [for free agency] is just normal procedure."
Evans made a base salary of $800,000 in 1991 and also reached some incentives (including games played) that increased the salary to nearly $1 million.
He said he wanted "to get this thing done before I left town" but the Orioles were not prepared to talk substantially at that time.
"We haven't been serious about negotiations, but it doesn't mean we can't be," said Evans. "They're on a positive level, but not a serious level. Both sides have a lot of time."
When nothing was discussed toward the end of the season, Evans returned home.
"I don't want to play games at this stage of my career," he said. "I don't feel I have to play games. There's nothing that sounds better than for me to help win a world championship in that new ballpark and for those tremendous fans."