Orioles enter camp with no plans to regress

After reaching ALCS in 2014, club hopes it will again contend in AL East

Orioles enter camp with no plans to regress

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles looked around a crowded FanFest last month and it became apparent: Last year's run to the American League Championship Series stirred up a lot of excitement in the city. Even a slow offseason, in which the biggest rumor involved executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, hasn't deterred the O's faithful.

"There's no more passionate, sincere group of fans than the guys we have," manager Buck Showalter said. "I tell them in the spring, 'When you want to give in and there's some physical challenges, there's people living and dying with us. You have a real opportunity here.' Nothing would kick me in the chest more than for us to regress."

To keep improving, the Orioles are relying on the return of their core and a healthy Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, both of whom are coming off season-ending injuries. Chris Davis, who will finish his 25-game suspension Opening Day, will be counted on to try to make up for the loss of Nelson Cruz's bat, while Showalter will have a plethora of outfielders to watch this spring. How the left- and right-field spots -- after the departure of Nick Markakis -- shake out will be of particular interest.

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So, too, will be the rotation, where the O's return all of their starters and have six guys for five spots. Can Ubaldo Jimenez bounce back from a frustrating first season with Baltimore? Will this be the year the O's stop shuttling Kevin Gausman back and forth from Triple-A?

Duquette said the Orioles would still try to add a bullpen arm and a utility infielder. They're also very intrigued with the pair of pitchers they picked in the Rule 5 Draft, Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett. And, of course, there is the question of who Showalter will choose to bat leadoff without Markakis.

Showalter speaks from FanFest

Here are some of the notable dates this spring for fans to monitor:

Pitchers and catchers report
Thursday

Full squad reports
Feb. 24

First Spring Training game
Away vs. Tigers, March 3, 1:05 p.m. ET

Opening Day
Away vs. Rays, April 6, 3:10 p.m. ET

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.