While still working on a deal for the Minnesota Twins’ Bert Blyleven, the Angels apparently will also take a free agent run at their former ace, Nolan Ryan.
The Houston Astros right-hander, acknowledging that his hope is to re-sign with the hometown Astros, kept his options open by filing for free agency Tuesday.
Angel owner Gene Autry, a fellow Texan, said he has talked about Ryan’s possible availability with General Manager Mike Port but that neither has talked with Ryan or his agent, Dick Moss.
Prospective free agents can negotiate only with their own club until 15 days after the end of the World Series.
Would the Angels be interested in Ryan, who left the Angels as a free agent after the 1979 season and is now 41?
“I think we would be,” Autry said. “I think he’s still an outstanding pitcher. Besides, I like Nolan very much. I’m sorry we let him go, but that’s water over the dam. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
The Angels inability to reach a contract agreement with Ryan after the 1979 season is considered the biggest faux pas in the history of a franchise that may be nearing a decision on its next manager.
Autry and Port will meet with Oakland A’s third-base coach Jim Lefebvre in Los Angeles today. Lefebvre may be emerging as the leading candidate in a field that also includes Joe Torre, Jim Fregosi, Gene Mauch and Hal Lanier.
Ryan, meanwhile, was reached at his ranch in Alvin, Tex., a Houston suburb, and said:
“My intent when I came to Houston was to finish my career here and that is still my hope. Whether it comes to pass or not, I don’t know.”
The remarkable Ryan earned $1 million in salary and another $200,000 in incentives while again leading the National League in strike outs with 228 and the Astros in starts, 33, and innings pitched, 220. A mechanical breakdown during an 0-5 June and the customary poor support restricted his record to 12-11 despite a solid earned- run average of 3.52.
It is believed that Ryan will not accept a pay cut from the Astros, who apparently would like to reduce Ryan’s guarantee as a hedge against his age while giving him the opportunity to make it up through incentives.
Ryan said his negotiations with the Astros remain friendly, but that filing for free agency represented a “next step.”
“I have no way to gauge what interest there may be,” Ryan said of the open market. “That’s why I declared early. I’d like to get this resolved as soon as possible. I’d like to have it resolved before the holidays.”
Ryan said 1989 would probably be his last season, but at one point he thought 1988 would be.
“It’s not etched in stone,” he said. “If I throw as well as I did this year, who knows?”
And would he be interested in returning to the Angels, for whom he pitched 8 seasons and registered 4 of his 5 no hitters?
“If it comes to pass that I’m going to make a move, they would definitely have interest for me,” Ryan said. “My family was comfortable in Southern California, I had a good relationship with Gene Autry and I enjoyed my years there.
“If I make a move, it would be easier going to a place I’m familiar with.”