BALTIMORE, JAN. 14 -- The Baltimore Orioles' new cleanup hitter was in town today, but, perhaps more important for team officials, so too was one of Glenn Davis's agents. While Davis and his wife spent the afternoon searching for a house, Mike Moye and the Orioles started getting down to the business of determining how long the slugger will be in Baltimore.

According to Moye, Davis has filed for salary arbitration; he had little choice, because Tuesday is the deadline for doing so. Thus, if the Orioles and Davis's negotiating team -- which includes Moye and his Orlando, Fla.-based associate, Robert Fraley -- cannot reach an agreement quickly, Davis's 1991 salary will be determined in a month or so at an arbitration hearing.

But these contract negotiating sessions have longer-term implications as well. Davis -- who earned $1.985 million last year and was asking the Houston Astros for a new deal in the range of $4 million a season for four or five years -- will be eligible for free agency after this coming season, and the Orioles have taken the considerable risk of swapping a chunk of their future (pitchers Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling and outfielder Steve Finley) for a player who conceivably could be gone after one season.

Davis was noncommittal about his contract situation during and after today's news conference, at which Orioles officials formally introduced him.

"All that I really know is that I'm a Baltimore Oriole for 1991," he said. "The next question is really left up to the Orioles. . . . I still think about exploring the free agent market, but at the same time maybe I'm ready to settle down and forget about it."

Moye said he planned to be in town for the remainder of the week, although he was uncertain about the agenda for his meetings with Orioles President Larry Lucchino. Both Moye and Lucchino indicated that the Orioles did not ask pretrade questions to determine how difficult Davis might be to sign, and neither would comment on any specific negotiating points.

Neither side apparently knows yet whether the thrust of this week's activity will be to try to agree on a one-year pact to avoid arbitration or to try to settle on a multiyear deal. "We have no preconceived notions at this point," Moye said. "We're certainly approaching this with a lot of optimism."

Moye would not say if Davis would be willing to lower his salary demands from what he asked of the Astros. "This is a totally new situation, and it will be evaluated completely separately," he said. "The one constant is that Glenn Davis is one of the best hitters in both leagues."

Davis said he was somewhat miffed that the Astros failed to offer him the kind of contract that might have kept him in Houston. Besides being the National League's third-leading home run hitter over the past five years (only Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis hit more) even while playing half his games in the cavernous Astrodome, he also was active in the community -- starting a home for disadvantaged children and spending many hours at local hospitals; he'll receive baseball's second-annual Bart Giamatti Caring Award Thursday in New York for his charitable efforts.

"I think the most disturbing thing {about the trade} was just having to leave Houston," Davis said. "We have a lot of friends there, we did a lot of things in the community, and you don't just get over that. I'll still remember all those little kids' faces at the hospital, all those underprivileged kids who thought I was the only person they could talk to."

But from a baseball perspective, he said, the trade was the best thing that could have happened to him. He said the Astrodome sometimes kept him awake thinking about balls he had hit that would have been homers in other parks. "It's a hitter's nightmare," he said.

He grew up with former Orioles pitcher Storm Davis (he was raised by Storm's parents and adopted the family name), and he said his step-brother has said only good things about Baltimore. It's also a return to where he almost started: The Orioles drafted him out of a Florida high school in 1979, but they wanted to make him a pitcher. After one minor league workout, he opted to go to college instead.

He said he'd have no objections if Manager Frank Robinson asks him to play the outfield, where he spent parts of several minor league seasons and his first seven games in the majors. But he feels he has made himself into a good first baseman, and he said that's where he'd be most comfortable. He insisted the rib injury that put him on the disabled list last season is healed.

And, Davis said, it probably would help his mental outlook to enter the upcoming season with a long-term contract in hand. "I think that could help a player out a lot," he said, "being at rest mentally {and} knowing, 'Hey, this is going to be your town.' "