The American League has formed an expansion committee, as a step toward adding teams for the first time since 1977, a Denver newspaper reported.

The move was disclosed by AL President Bobby Brown at the end of a quarterly meeting of the 26 major league owners in Toronto, the Rocky Mountain News reported yesterday.

It came on the heels of the National League's decision to form its own expansion committee, independent of Major League Baseball's Long Range Planning Committee.

But Brown downplayed the action, saying it should not be construed as a "major step," but rather a sign of baseball's commitment to expansion.

Commissioner Peter Ueberroth fended off questions about the significance of the AL move. But he acknowledged: "I think that gives {expansion cities} a much better run."

Brown identified the committee members as Dick Jacobs, co-owner of the Cleveland Indians; Joe Burke, president of the Kansas City Royals; Paul Beeston, executive vice president of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Bud Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. Brown said he also is a member of the five-man panel.

Plans call for the two expansion committees to meet at least once before the winter meetings, Brown said. "Whether or not we'll make a report at the winter meetings, I can't say yet," he said.