O's share hopes for upcoming year at FanFest
Players meet with fans Saturday at Baltimore Convention Center
BALTIMORE -- Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, the longest-tenured player on the team, summed up the vibe around Baltimore perfectly.
"Your record the last two months doesn't count going into Spring Training," he said. "However, the feeling does."
That feeling of hope, built on last season's 34-23 finish, radiated though the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday. More than 10,000 eager fans came out to show their support, get autographs and rally around the Orioles' 2011 team.
"The fans are excited, the city's excited, and other teams are taking notice that the Orioles played really solid baseball for 2 1/2 months," Roberts added.
The lone returnee to an infield now filled with Derrek Lee, J.J Hardy and Mark Reynolds, Roberts said his back is feeling great and he will be a full go in next month's camp, which already has a different feel.
"This is the first time in my nine years that we've had this momentum going into Spring Training," Roberts said. "Usually, it's been a down note, unfortunately, and the offseason has been half-hearted optimism. This year, people have looked back and said, 'Wow, maybe they are building on something.'"
"I'm really excited about it," Hardy said of his new team. "I feel like they've gotten a lot better in the offseason with the moves they've made, and I'm just excited to move forward from the last 13 [losing] seasons."
It's a sentiment echoed throughout the Orioles' roster -- and one that resonates with manager Buck Showalter, who wants to return a winner to the city of Baltimore.
"I don't want to set limitations on it," Showalter said, when asked for his outlook on the upcoming season. "We just want to do things right, and play the game with effort and see where it takes us."
While president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail noted that the team has about "four active conversations" still going on at this point -- including an offer out to Vladimir Guerrero -- the key will be the team's pitching.
"We pitched very well the last two months of the year," said starter Jeremy Guthrie. "If we can pitch like we did those last two months, we could be in playoff contention. I don't think you can expect that, but I don't think we will struggle like we did as a starting staff in the first four months."
Guthrie, who is up for arbitration, said the two sides have discussed the possibility of a long-term contract -- although as it stands, the two parties haven't agreed on a length. So there is still a possibility the parties could go to a hearing.
"But, I love Baltimore," Guthrie said. "I love pitching here. And anytime you can provide your family with security, it's a great option. I'm very happy to also play it out year-by-year, and have the motivation to go out and do the best that I can. Whatever happens, I'll be in a good spot."
The Orioles believe they are in a good spot as a whole, having upgraded their lineup without sacrificing on the defensive end. Saturday's event featured appearances by and autograph opportunities with nearly the entire team, as well as former players and nearly every member of Showalter's new coaching staff.
In addition to autograph signings, the day's entertainment included interactive question-and-answer sessions with current and former players, coaches, executives and media; youth baseball clinics; memorabilia exhibits and interactive games. It was also an opportunity for players to reconnect with each other and meet the new additions.
"I'm really excited about who we got and what we're going to put on the field this year," said starter Brad Bergesen, who admitted he's been on the computer, anxiously checking the team's offseason moves.
Added Reynolds, "I think we're going to surprise some people."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.