If the Baltimore Orioles were looking for any kind of advantage with prized free agent pitcher Carl Pavano, they may have found it in agent Scott Shapiro, a diehard Orioles fan virtually since birth and a friend of owner Peter Angelos.
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, the two wealthiest franchises in baseball, are expected to bid on Pavano.
"I know that Carl and I have talked about [the Orioles]," Shapiro said. "The Orioles are a team he thinks are building a winner. He thinks he could be a part of that. . . . The Orioles are going to be one of the teams we'll be spending a lot of time with. The Orioles are a franchise that we're interested in exploring the possibilities."
Shapiro's relationship with Angelos dates from this summer, when the agent represented a group from Puerto Rico trying to acquire the Montreal Expos. Shapiro and Angelos met numerous times.
"My respect for the man is unparalleled," Shapiro said. "He continues to eat, sleep and breathe the Baltimore Orioles. I'm confident he will do anything possible to make the Orioles a contending team. His spirit is the Orioles. With an owner like Mr. Angelos, if Carl made the decision to play there, he'd be happy to play for the Orioles."
The Orioles are considering Pavano, who will be 29 at the start of next season, in a pitching-rich free agent class that also includes Pedro Martinez, Brad Radke, Matt Morris and Matt Clement.
Agent Barry Axelrod said Clement would also consider the Orioles.
"We really haven't eliminated many teams from our thinking, except for the Cubs, who don't seem to need any pitching," Axelrod said. "There are very few teams he's eliminated. Baltimore is not one of them."
Pavano established himself last season as one of the top pitchers in the National League, posting an 18-8 record with a 3.00 ERA. He is expected to finish among the top three in the NL Cy Young voting.
"He's one of the pitchers in the mix," Baltimore Director of Baseball Administration Ed Kenney said. "He's from Connecticut. That would be a selling point for us. We're on the East Coast, close to where he's from."
Pavano, from New Britain, Conn., has close ties with a couple of people in the Orioles organization. In the mid-1990s, Kenney, then a member of the Red Sox' minor league department, helped develop Pavano as a prospect.
"He was always a prospect from the day we drafted him," Kenney said. "Pavano, he's a big man with big legs and a strong body and a great arm."
In 1998, Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie, then the Montreal Expos' general manager, traded Martinez to the Red Sox for Pavano and pitcher Tony Armas Jr.
Pavano's return to the Florida Marlins seems unlikely. The pitcher rejected a reported three-year, $21 million deal this week and instead filed for free agency on Wednesday.
"Carl appreciates what the organization has done for him," Shapiro said. "But Carl let the guys know [Wednesday], it's his interest to test the market."
Orioles Notes: Gregg Clifton, agent for Baltimore free agent outfielder B.J. Surhoff, said he has spoken with the Orioles about a new deal but nothing appears imminent. Last season, the 40-year-old Surhoff, in mostly a reserve role, hit .309 with eight home runs and 50 RBI. Clifton said Surhoff hopes to end his career with the Orioles, though the outfielder won't necessarily sacrifice his bargaining position in order to do so.
"That would be his desire," Clifton said. "Doesn't mean it will happen." . . .
The Orioles are expected to release a 2005 schedule soon, possibly today.