The free agent period in baseball has begun with a crawl and the Baltimore Orioles have followed the pace.

The team is slowly crafting its offseason plan, which will include a conversation this week with agent Casey Close, who represents first baseman Richie Sexson. Close spoke with Jim Beattie, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, by phone last week when general managers gathered in Key Biscayne, Fla. In that conversation, the sides agreed to talk again this week, as the Orioles' courtship of Sexson begins.

"Certainly, it's an organization he would consider," Close said. "Any hitter would love the opportunity to play in Camden Yards."

Beattie said it is too early in the process to consider the Orioles heavy bidders for Sexson and that the team is considering several options for improvement.

"Right now, we're in the initial stages," Beattie said.

Last season Sexson, 29, played in just 23 games because of a left shoulder injury. When healthy, Sexson is a premier first baseman. In 2003, he hit 45 home runs and drove in 124 runs for the Milwaukee Brewers. Sexson was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the offseason, but had just 90 at-bats in 2004. He was on the disabled list twice because of the shoulder injury and did not play after May 22.

Close said Sexson started taking swings a month ago, and is willing to work out for teams to prove his health. Prior to last season, Sexson was considered a reliable presence in the lineup, averaging 159 games from 2001 to '03.

Beattie was reluctant to say whether the Orioles would ask Sexson to work out, saying the Orioles haven't made a decision on whether they would pursue Sexson. But should they enter the bidding, Beattie said Baltimore would need evidence that Sexson was healthy.

The Orioles haven't made an offer to any of their targets, which include first baseman Carlos Delgado, outfielder Magglio Ordonez and pitcher Carl Pavano. Beattie expects the negotiations for those players to move slowly.

"I think some of the [high-profile] players will take some time," Beattie said.

The Orioles also expressed interest in another of Close's clients, pitcher Eric Milton, though some reports suggest the New York Yankees are the front-runners for the left-handed pitcher. Baltimore apparently will be aggressive in pursuing Pavano. The pitcher, through agent Scott Shapiro, has expressed interest in visiting Baltimore soon. That visit likely will happen after Thanksgiving.

Orioles Notes: The team likely will name a scouting director today. Baltimore has interviewed team scout Jeff Taylor, Washington's Lee MacPhail and the Florida Marlins' Joe Jordan . . . Beattie said he hopes to speak to agent Gregg Clifton this week about the possible return of outfielder B.J. Surhoff.

First baseman Richie Sexson, right, celebrates a home run in one of his 23 games last year. A shoulder injury kept him out for most of the season.