SAN DIEGO — Five years after a contract hassle led to Steve Garvey's departure from the Dodgers, both sides are willing to forgive and forget.
Garvey, whose $1.45-million-a-year contract with the Padres expired Oct. 4, had said Thursday that he wanted to return to the Dodgers for one last season rather than accept the Padres' offer to go to spring training on a tryout basis. Friday, the Dodgers indicated that they would consider bringing him back.
Fred Claire, executive vice president of the Dodgers, issued the following statement regarding Garvey: "We appreciate Steve's interest in the Dodgers, and we will be happy to meet with him."
Told of the Dodgers' reaction, Garvey said, "That's encouraging, and I in turn will look forward to speaking with Fred Claire or Peter O'Malley (Dodger president) or both."
Garvey added that he hoped to talk with the Dodgers as early as Tuesday, the first day free agents are permitted to negotiate. He had declared his free agency Thursday.
In expressing his desire to wind up his career where it began 17 years ago, Garvey said he assumed he would have to take a pay cut and that it would not be a problem. He will be 39 Dec. 22, so he has no illusions about longevity. All he has in mind is one more season.
"I think there's at least a 50-50 chance (of signing with the Dodgers)," he said. "In their position, they might be more inclined to go with an experienced player like me."
Before being forced to sit out the last 135 games of the 1987 season with a torn biceps tendon in his left shoulder, Garvey had hoped to be back for a sixth and final season with the Padres. Now, however, he has turned to Plan B.
"It's obviously a different situation for me as a free agent this time," he said. "More or less, I'm in the autumn of my career. If I'm healthy, I just want to play one more year.
"I would like to have stayed here. But they are going in a different direction now, with the accent on youth, and for whatever other reasons, I don't figure in their plans. Obviously, there is more to it than that, but who knows what?
"I think the case in San Diego is closed. I wish it wasn't, but it seems pretty cut and dried.
"That being the case, I would like very much to go back to the Dodgers. I think I could help restore some of their pride. I look forward to returning to an atmosphere where I developed my career.
"As far as my leaving Los Angeles in '82 was concerned, I don't think there were any deep-seated hard feelings. It was a business decision, and we respected each other for that."
If Garvey strikes out with the Dodgers, will he try to catch on with another club?
"I want to take it step by step," he said. "My first step is to see if the Dodgers are interested. After 17 or 18 years, I would like to stay in the National League."
What about the possibility of going to an American League club as a designated hitter?
"I hear it takes about a year to get adjusted," the veteran first baseman said. "I'm a traditionalist. I like playing the game full time. That's the way it's meant to be played."
Garvey said he wouldn't sign a contract until he considered himself fully recovered from his shoulder injury.
"I should be able to make a sound decision by January," he said. "I'm confident, though, that I'll be 100%. I have five months of rehab under my belt, with a month or so to go.
"I take physical therapy and work on weights. I don't have full range of motion yet, but I'm getting close."