Orioles set to make pitch to get Pavano

Free-agent right-hander coming to town Sunday

Baseball

December 02, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Carl Pavano will get the grand tour of Camden Yards. He'll meet with Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, pitching coach Ray Miller and vice presidents Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan.

Then, Pavano will have dinner with owner Peter Angelos.

The Orioles plan to pull out all the stops Sunday when Pavano gets to Baltimore on a tour designed to help the free-agent pitcher pick his next employer.

According to Orioles insiders, Pavano has emerged as one of their primary offseason targets - along with free-agent first basemen Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson - so they want to make their best possible impression.

While much of the national speculation has Pavano leaning toward the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees, "Carl has a completely open mind," his agent, Scott Shapiro, said yesterday.

"Carl's very intrigued by the Orioles," Shapiro added. "They may not have the big market of Boston or New York, but they've got an owner who is dedicated to winning and an organization with a great history. You go back to Brooks Robinson and those great teams they had, the fan base in Baltimore embraces their heroes."

This is one of the reasons the Orioles have zeroed in on Pavano, 28, who spent the past 2 1/2 seasons with the Florida Marlins. They like that he's doing his homework and isn't making a decision strictly based on who offers the best contract.

Shapiro said Pavano wants to see the team's video equipment and training facilities, and he's eager to meet with Miller, who is flying from Ohio just to be there.

To date, the Orioles have had no discussions regarding Boston's two free-agent pitchers, Pedro Martinez or Derek Lowe. They have expressed interest in other pitchers - such as Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Matt Clement, Russ Ortiz and Jaret Wright - but Pavano is the only one scheduled to take a tour.

"I think there are a lot of good selling points here," Beattie said. "The manager, the coaches, the city, the stadium, the fans."

Beattie would not say whether the Orioles have made Pavano a formal offer, but the sides have had numerous conversations, and the team has said enough to make Pavano believe they'll be in his financial ballpark.

Beyond that, it's a matter of convincing him they're the right fit.

His tour, which Shapiro has dubbed "Carlapalooza," began last month when Pavano met with the Red Sox and dined with pitcher Curt Schilling.

It resumes today, when Pavano and Shapiro head to Detroit for a visit with the Tigers. On Friday, they'll be in New York to speak with the Yankees. Then, after spending Sunday and Monday night in Baltimore, they'll visit the Seattle Mariners and Anaheim Angels before the baseball winter meetings begin in Anaheim, Calif., on Dec. 10.

Notice, all the tour stops come in American League cities. Pavano, a native of New Britain, Conn., who cut his teeth with the Montreal Expos, has pitched only in the National League.

On Monday, the Orioles plan to show him potential housing options in the Baltimore area.

"We want to get him out to show him parts of the city where the players live, and maybe even get him out of the city and show him how close the country is," Beattie said. "Of the players who come here, many end up living here because they like it."

The Marlins have offered Pavano a three-year, $21 million deal, and there's a chance they could keep him if they add a fourth year and increase the salary. Other NL candidates include the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.

Many industry sources consider Boston the favorite. The Red Sox have almost reached their limit on Martinez, with a three-year, $38 million offer. They will likely guarantee the third year of that deal - no more - and if he turns it down, they'll turn their focus to Pavano.

The Orioles have some advantages. Beattie was the Expos' general manager when they acquired Pavano from the Red Sox in the 1997 trade that sent Martinez to Boston. Pavano took his lumps before going 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA last season in Florida. His career record is 57-58.

"I know him fairly well," Beattie said. "I have a sense of what he's gone through to get where he's at."

And Shapiro already has a good working relationship with Angelos stemming from this summer, when Shapiro represented a group from Puerto Rico that was trying to acquire the Expos.

Pavano and Angelos recently spoke to each other directly.

"I was on the phone with Mr. Angelos, and I put Carl on," Shapiro said. "I'm a huge fan of [Angelos]. He's a tremendous asset to that team."

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