BALTIMORE -- Rarely has such a defining trip begun in frigid and dreary Detroit, a place so unwelcoming in the winter. On Thursday morning in Detroit, coveted free agent pitcher Carl Pavano began an adventure that he hopes will help him decide where to spend the next few years of his blossoming career. He will travel to five cities in less than a week and a half. After Detroit, Pavano stops in New York, Baltimore, Seattle and Anaheim -- an itinerary that seems more appropriate for a rock tour. Some have dubbed Pavano's trip "Carl-a-palooza."
"It's going to be a grind," said Scott Shapiro, the agent for Pavano. "We're excited about learning information about the organizations. It's not a vacation for us."
Carl Pavano, who was 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA last season, is to visit five cities. He already has been to Boston.
(Ryan Remiorz - AP)
A 2004 season in which he was 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA has put Pavano squarely at the top of the list of many teams seeking a starting free agent pitcher. Pavano, 28, is younger than Brad Radke, stronger and sturdier than Pedro Martinez and more consistent in the strike zone than Matt Clement. He will likely never face another opportunity again to command top dollar for his services. This contract will likely be the biggest of his career in terms of monetary gain, length and stability.
"From our standpoint, we're taking a methodical approach," Shapiro said. "Because of the gravity of the decision on his life and on the organizations, Carl is doing everything to inform himself about the organizations."
With that in mind, Pavano has squelched conventional free agent logic and decided that comfort, not money, will be the key factor in his decision.
"To me, it's somewhat refreshing in a way," Jim Beattie, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations, said. "It's more than just a contract. This seems like a player that's taking control of the process. He wants to get a sense of what Baltimore is like more than just what the dollars will be."
At each stop, Pavano requests to meet with the team's manager, pitching coach, video coordinator and trainer. He asks to examine the team's training facilities and examines the video room. Shapiro said Pavano's preparation is a comprehensive process that requires adequate facilities. He also tours each city and looks at places where he might live. Shapiro said Pavano is looking for a home and not just a place to play baseball.
"It's hard to know if Seattle is a good fit if he hasn't set foot in Washington," Shapiro said.
In this era, many players have played in both leagues and have visited every major league city. Taking such an exhaustive trip is not entirely necessary. Most prefer to visit only a couple of cities if they chose to visit one at all. Pavano is an anomaly. He has played his entire seven-year career in the National League and has had only fleeting stops in most of the American League cities. For that reason, Pavano is making this trip.
"It's probably unique in the number of cities he's seeing," Dave Dombrowski, president and general manager of the Detroit Tigers, said. "I think it's great he's doing this. It speaks well of him."
Of course, one city not on the tour, Boston, is said to be the favorite to land Pavano. The pitcher, a former Red Sox draft choice, visited Boston in mid-November to meet with ace Curt Schilling. Shapiro said Pavano has yet to make up his mind.
It will likely take an offer near four years, $40 million to land Pavano. The Orioles appear to be a legitimate option. The Orioles plan to have Pavano, who has never pitched in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, meet with Manager Lee Mazzilli and pitching coach Ray Miller. He also likely will have dinner with owner Peter Angelos.
"He's excited about the process and taking it to this level," Shapiro said. "Frankly, it's an important decision in his life."