CLEVELAND, JUNE 13 -- The picture remains to be filled in, but Major League Baseball owners here today for their two-day quarterly meetings provided a fairly good outline of the process under which the National League's two-team expansion will take place.

Prospective ownership groups soon will be asked to express officially their interest. Within the next month or so, they will receive a detailed questionnaire from the NL expansion committee. The committee most likely will meet with the interested parties later this year and visit their cities not long thereafter. The new franchises are scheduled to be awarded in 1991 and begin playing in 1993.

The target dates for the completion of each step in the process will be revealed Thursday during a news conference that will follow a joint meeting of National and American League owners.

"We will spell all that out," said Douglas Danforth, chairman and chief executive officer of the Pittsburgh Pirates and chairman of an expansion committee that also includes NL President Bill White, Fred Wilpon of the New York Mets and John McMullen of the Houston Astros.

What probably will not be spelled out are the criteria by which the candidates will be judged, the entry fee and when the teams will share in national television and radio rights money.

Danforth said the committee would present "very general" selection guidelines that will "give a flavor of what we are talking about."

The specifics will be revealed in the questionnaire, which Danforth said will be distributed "within 30 days, maybe sooner." He did give a sneak preview, saying the questionnaire will cover financial resources, ownership's commitment to their area, the degree of local government support, demographics, and over-the-air and cable television capability.

"We will try to move it {the review process} along as fast as we can," Danforth said. "We know the cities are anxious. We're anxious. We will not drag it out if we can avoid it."

Danforth said the committee will accept proposals from more than one prospective ownership group in a given city. "We encourage groups in any area to get together if they can," he said, "but we know that's not always going to be possible. So, we will entertain presentations from separate groups."

This could be an important issue for Washington. Councilman Frank Smith (D-Ward 1) and the D.C. Baseball Commission have spent nearly six years seeking a team that would play at RFK Stadium. About a month ago a group of area businessmen, led by Class A Prince William Cannons co-owner Mark Tracz, announced they would seek a team that would begin playing at RFK Stadium and then move to a new stadium in Northern Virginia.

Although members of each group have said Washington's chances of being awarded a team will be enhanced if the area speaks with one voice, the groups have been at loggerheads. Tracz and two of his partners arrived here this afternoon. Smith has said he planned to be here tonight.

Upon his arrival, Tracz said he had spoken with Smith's chief of staff Mark Brown on Tuesday and is expecting to meet with Smith here tonight or Thursday.

"We certainly would like to do that," Tracz said.

However, he and his group reiterated today that the issue of seeking a team for Northern Virginia is nonnegotiable. They said if they cannot persuade Smith they intend to move forward with their bid.

In any case, as owners appear to be making decisions about where the franchises should be placed, they are sounding noncommittal to not very encouraging about Washington's chances.

Baltimore Orioles owner Eli Jacobs, echoing a recent statement from Commissioner Fay Vincent, said his club would not stand in Washington's way. If the Orioles' vote was "the swing vote," Jacobs said, "we would not be opposed.

"Our position," he added, "is we have no position. We are not advocating" baseball in Washington "and we are not opposing it."

But Philadelphia Phillies President Bill Giles may be willing to save Jacobs some worry. "I'm partial to putting teams in areas where there's not a close proximity" to existing franchises, Giles said.

Detroit Tigers Chief Executive Officer Jim Campbell said: "I always like to go to Washington. But just where that fits into this whole things I have no idea. . . . I have an open mind."

As for how the owners will arrive at an entry fee, Danforth said "it's not as complicated as you think. We'll be losing good players. We know what it costs to develop players and we know the market value of franchises."

But entry fee could related to how quickly the teams are allowed to share in the national TV and radio rights fees. Danforth said there would be a "short period" of time the teams would have to wait. But Pirates President Carl Barger said that, if the new teams were allowed to share immediately, the entry fee may be higher.

One indication of market value came this afternoon when owners from both leagues in separate meetings unanimously approved the sale of the San Diego Padres from Joan Kroc to a group headed by Los Angeles television producer Tom Werner for $75 million.

Werner, 40, is co-producer of "The Cosby Show" and other highly rated television series. His group, which he has said plans no immediate changes, will take over operation of the team Friday.