PITTSBURGH (AP) _ This could be the day that the Pittsburgh Pirates' 15-month search for a new buyer finally ends _ or starts all over again.

Baseball's ownership committee planned a conference call to consider California businessman Kevin McClatchy's estimated $85 million buyout. If the deal passes the committee's scrutiny, its ratification by major league club owners is highly likely.

``We're confident where we are (financially), just as we have been all along,'' Chip Gesner, McClatchy's investment banker, said Monday.

McClatchy met Monday with investors and polished his final proposal before shipping it to major league baseball. There was one change _ businessman Frank Fuhrer is in as an investor, and cable sports channel Prime Sports-KBL is out _ but essentially it is the same proposal he made Oct. 31.

The major hangup blocking final ratification _ the time frame for a new baseball stadium _ still was not resolved by Monday night. But that could be firmed up over the next two months as major league attorneys scrutinize McClatchy's 12-member investors group.

``Baseball figures that if you're going to build a ballpark, it shouldn't take three or four years to find the financing,'' McClatchy said. ``Baseball thinks it can be done faster.''

Five of the 10 current Pirates owners also have agreed to retain their shares, thereby reducing the upfront cash McClatchy must pay to buy out their shares. Each departing owner will get his $2.5 million investment back.

McClatchy's negotiating rights initially expired Oct. 31, but were extended by one week at the request of baseball's attorneys.

If the ownership committee gives the go-ahead, the Pirates' owners will almost certainly accept McClatchy's offer and an additional $2 million down payment. He already has posted a nonrefundable $1 million deposit.

Club sales must be ratified by 11 of the 14 National League owners and eight of the 14 AL owners, but the owners almost always follow the ownership committee's recommendation.

Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf heads an eight-man ownership committee that also includes NL president Len Coleman and AL president Gene Budig.

McClatchy's Three Rivers Stadium lease agreement with the city calls for financing to be completed within four years, with construction to begin by the fifth year. Baseball wants the timetable speeded up, with financing in place within two years and construction to follow in the next two years.

Mayor Tom Murphy, a McClatchy supporter, held several stadium discussions with National League attorney Robert Kheel's staff last week, but the timetable was not changed.

However, McClatchy said baseball viewed the formation of state and local committees to locate the financing and a stadium site as positive steps toward completing the deal.

McClatchy has suggested a compromise _ three years for financing, and construction by fourth year _ that probably would get the Pirates into their new ballpark by the turn of the century.

Meanwhile, sources close to the negotiations said McClatchy has added Fuhrer, one of Pittsburgh's best-known sports figures and businessmen, to the investors' group as a $5 million general partner.

Fuhrer said last week he was close to joining the group, but wanted several conditions met before officially signing up. He did not specify what those conditions were, and he could not be reached Monday.

Fuhrer has made millions as a beer distributor and annually stages the nation's richest pro-am golf tournament featuring PGA pros, the Family House Invitational. He also once owned the Pittsburgh Triangles of the defunct World Team Tennis league.

Adding Fuhrer to a 12-member investors group that has pledged about $45 million in cash allowed McClatchy to replace Prime Sports-KBL, a $5 million investor that baseball's attorneys initially questioned.

Prime Sports-KBL is one of 16 regional sports channels owned by Liberty Media, which owns a stake of the Atlanta Braves' parent company, Turner Broadcasting. Turner is being bought by Time-Warner and Liberty is merging with Fox, but Prime Sports-KBL's involvement in the Pirates' deal still might have violated baseball's strict cross-ownership rules.

``We got two different opinions on (Prime Sports-KBL's involvement), but we took them out and we're not going to submit them,'' Gesner said.

The Pirates held out the right to talk to other possible buyers after McClatchy's initial negotiating window expired last Tuesday. But baseball's attorneys seem satisfied with McClatchy's offer and apparently have not talked recently with any other possible buyers.