Orioles try to reel in Fernandez Club woos left-hander with video welcome, tour

November 18, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The Orioles have made no secret of their desire to sign at least one front-line free agent this year, and they did not play it coy with left-hander Sid Fernandez yesterday.

Fernandez came to Baltimore for a tour of the ballpark and a luncheon meeting with Orioles front-office officials, but he probably got more than he bargained for.

The club produced a video welcome on the Camden Yards scoreboard that included highlights of Fernandez's impressive exhibition appearance in the first game played at Oriole Park and a mock broadcast of his first shutout victory as an Oriole.

"Baltimore did a fantastic job," said agent Tom Selakovich, who is accompanying the 31-year-old pitcher on a three-city tour that moved to Cleveland last night and will end in Arlington, Texas, tomorrow. "We were very impressed with their creativity, and we were impressed that Johnny Oates drove 2 1/2 hours to see us."

Fernandez and Selakovich met with manager Oates, general manager Roland Hemond and assistant GMs Doug Melvin and Frank Robinson yesterday, then met with the media briefly before moving on to Cleveland. Negotiations are in the early stages, but Selakovich said the Orioles are one of two teams that have made an initial offer.

"We have narrowed it down to four teams -- the Orioles, Cleveland, Texas and the Mets," Selakovich said. "We're hoping to get back to everyone around Thanksgiving."

Selakovich did not elaborate on the offer, but he said it was indicative that the Orioles are "very serious" about signing Fernandez.

"The fit is there," he said. "Now, it's a matter of coming to terms favorably. We've got a little ways to go, but everything has been very positive."

Fernandez also has received an offer from the Mets, the team he has played for during practically all of his 10-year major-league career.

Fernandez is in the midst of a five-day trip that began in his native Hawaii on Monday, but he seemed to enjoy the Orioles' attention. Robinson led the tour of the ballpark. The club also prepared a jersey with his name and number (50) on it and placed it in a locker between those of right-handers Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald.

"It's always good to be wanted . . . anywhere," Fernandez said. "When my agent told me about this two weeks ago, I wasn't that up for it. It's such a long flight from Honolulu. But I'm glad I came. It is a very impressive facility, and they seem to be good people."

If the Orioles had hoped to wow Fernandez with the beauty and character of Camden Yards, they found out that his focus was more on the basics. He was very impressed with the clubhouse and workout facilities, something that very much impressed the Orioles.

"I liked that," Robinson said. "We were showing him how beautiful the Eutaw Street corridor is, and he was saying, 'Hey, I'm going to be spending most of my time in the clubhouse and on the field.' "

What does Fernandez want? He undoubtedly is looking for the best contract he can get, but Selakovich said that there are other priorities.

"Sid is looking for a less controversial team where there is more of a focus on baseball, and a team that is very competitive," he said. "I think most important, he wants good teammates. He was very impressed that the Orioles are having Will Clark in here later this week."

Clark also is high on the Orioles' free-agent wish list, but his agent, Jeff Moorad, said earlier this week that he has told clubs pTC not to make offers until he has completed a short tour of the teams that are interested.

Moorad and Clark have visited Texas and will arrive in Baltimore tonight. The Rangers apparently have taken the same approach as the Orioles, welcoming Clark in impressive fashion and touring him through a new stadium that will be ready for Opening Day.

* Last week's Bid For Kids auction of Orioles and All-Star memorabilia was a tremendous success. The function raised $83,000 for Orioles Children's Charities. Much of the money came from the sale of two autographed jerseys. Cal Ripken's jersey went for $10,000 and Brady Anderson's jersey was purchased for $9,000 by Steve Geppi, one of the club's new owners.

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