Orioles do an old-time sales job on Pavano

Ruth, O's memorabilia appeal to historian/pitcher

Baseball

December 07, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore portion of Carl Pavano's free-agent tour officially ended around 5 p.m. yesterday when he ducked into a black limousine parked outside the B&O warehouse and rushed to the airport for his flight to Seattle.

Maybe it's an encouraging sign for the Orioles that he wasn't in a hurry to leave.

Pavano was running late after taking a tour of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum and soaking up more of the atmosphere that the Orioles hope will entice him to sign a contract. He asked questions, joked about wanting to take home all the memorabilia he had seen, marveled at the artwork on one of the office walls at Camden Yards depicting heroes from past Orioles teams. For a few moments, flying across the country no longer seemed all that urgent.

"The biggest thing for me on these trips is going in each place with an open mind and trying to soak in everything, and I've been able to do that," said the 28-year-old pitcher. "It's nice to build a relationship with all these people and find out what they're trying to bring to the organization."

After dining with majority owner Peter Angelos at the Oregon Grille on Sunday night, Pavano worked out at Camden Yards early yesterday morning "to clear my mind and maintain my offseason routine."

Pavano and his agent, Scott Shapiro, toured the ballpark and had lunch with team executives Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan, manager Lee Mazzilli and pitching coach Ray Miller. A budding baseball historian, Pavano also was shown the archives at the Orioles' offices and Babe Ruth's birthplace.

"It was like sitting around with old buddies and telling stories," Pavano said. "That was a big part of the fun of this trip. I learned a lot about the Orioles' history, and this is a state-of-the-art stadium. I got to see most of the city. We definitely got a lot of things accomplished."

"It was really enjoyable," Flanagan said. "It was a group of pitchers getting together. Ray Miller was there, Jim, myself, Carl, speaking on that level of where he is in his career and journey as a pitcher. The time goes by too quickly."

The Orioles didn't make a formal offer to Pavano, who was 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA for the Florida Marlins last season, but talks will continue during the winter meetings that begin Friday in Anaheim, Calif.

"We haven't gotten quite to that part of the process," Flanagan said, "but it was very fruitful."

Pavano already made stops in Boston, Detroit and New York before the Orioles took their turn. They weren't about to skimp on the details.

The video department provided him with a glimpse of what the future could hold by putting his photo on the scoreboard in an Orioles uniform and treating the occasion like Opening Day - even posting a head shot of Oakland Athletics left-hander Mark Mulder opposite Pavano's likeness as a preview of the April 4 game at Camden Yards.

The recorded voice of public-address announcer Dave McGowan introduced Pavano as the starting pitcher, and career highlights were shown on the big screen. The free agent played catch with Shapiro as the Orioles cued Eminem's "Business," the song that accompanies him from the bullpen before each game.

"He said nobody's done that for him before," Mazzilli said. "It was good ... real good."

"It was a nice touch," Shapiro said, "but the substance of the trip was what was really impressive. From the owner on down, it's a top-flight organization."

Pavano met one-on-one with Mazzilli, who provided his own sales pitch.

"We talked about what this team has to offer and where we're going," Mazzilli said. "He told me what he liked about this club was most of the guys have been together for a few years. It's not guys coming and going. He knows the nucleus of this team. You come out of there feeling good."

Said Shapiro: "Carl is aware of the pitching history here in Baltimore, and to potentially be a part of that is pretty exciting to him. He was intrigued by a lot of the wonderful factors here that he needed to explore."

Negotiations will heat up at the winter meetings after Pavano, who finished sixth in the Cy Young voting in the National League, completes his tour with stops in Seattle and Anaheim. Shapiro said the chosen cities shouldn't be construed as a list of finalists, but he also doesn't expect any "surprises."

As for the Orioles' two-day flirtation with his client, Shapiro said, "Carl had an opportunity to meet the heart of the organization and it was great. He has a ton of respect for them. And you feel the energy of the Orioles throughout the city."

Early projections within the industry have Pavano going to the Yankees or Red Sox, especially if the Marlins don't increase their three-year, $21 million offer. But Pavano isn't ready to anoint anyone as a favorite.

"It's definitely wide open," he said.

With more information to gather and another team ready to entertain him, Pavano left the Orioles in the rearview mirror of his limousine. They're hoping that he'll be back, this time for good.

"I wouldn't have come here and wasted my time and their time," he said, "if I didn't feel they were a viable team to sign with."

NOTE: Today is the deadline for teams to offer their free agents salary arbitration, or risk not being able to re-sign them until May 1, and the Orioles are close to an agreement with B.J. Surhoff. "Looking at past history, I'm optimistic Jim [Beattie] and I will talk throughout the day, and I'm confident we'll get something done," said Surhoff's agent Gregg Clifton. Surhoff, whose base salary was $800,000 this year, hit .309 in 100 games.

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.

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