DALLAS -- After eight seasons and two separate stints with the Orioles' organization, the club finally cut ties with fan favorite B.J. Surhoff yesterday.
Surhoff, 41, was one of six pending free agents who were not offered arbitration by last night's midnight deadline. The others - pitchers James Baldwin and Jason Grimsley, outfielders Eli Marrero and Sammy Sosa and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro - were never expected to return.
"B.J. has been around here a long time and he is a special case," club executive vice president Mike Flanagan said. "I think he has been great for our organization. And I think, from our side, we have been pretty good with him, too."
Flanagan said he believes Surhoff still wants to play a 20th season, but because of yesterday's decision, he would not be eligible to rejoin the Orioles until May 1. That scenario was not discussed this week, and Flanagan said he expected Surhoff would try to catch on with another club.
"We just felt with all the stuff going on, the changes we are trying to make with the club and trying to move some things around [that the veteran outfielder was no longer a good fit]," Flanagan said.
In 91 games last season, Surhoff batted .257 with five homers and 34 RBIs. Even while battling injuries, Surhoff brought a constant intensity and blue-collar work ethic to a club that often lacked focus.
"I love B.J. Surhoff," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo. "He is as much of a professional as we have ever put on the field. I'll certainly miss him."
The No. 1 pick overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1985, Surhoff signed with the Orioles as a free agent in December 1995. He played in Baltimore for the next five seasons - including 1999 when he was team Most Valuable Player - but was dealt to Atlanta in the July 2000 fire sale. His tearful departure during a news conference is a part of team lore.
Surhoff, who lives year-round in Baltimore, returned as a free agent before the 2003 season.
Flanagan did not rule out the possibility of Surhoff returning in May but admitted those prospects are unlikely.
"We would have to see," Flanagan said. "We'd have to get deeper into the winter and see what other things we were able to do. He couldn't come back to the big leagues until May 1. I can't say we explored that."
He also said there has been no talk at this point of Surhoff joining the team in a non-playing capacity.
Flanagan said he did not have direct conversations with any of the other players denied arbitration.
Both Palmeiro and Sosa have said previously that they want to play at least another season in the big leagues.
Sosa's agent, Adam Katz, said yesterday that he is actively pursuing suitors for Sosa, but he would not comment further.
Palmeiro did not return phone calls.