Baltimore is still buzzing about Sunday night's Super Bowl win and Tuesday's parade, and while the celebration will last for quite a while, the moment the Ravens hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy, it officially ended the NFL season and signaled the start of baseball.
Pitchers and catchers will officially report to Spring Training in Sarasota, Fla., on Tuesday for a camp -- extended by the World Baseball Classic -- that will have a decidedly different feel from a year ago. An Orioles team that returns nearly everyone from 2012 will have to deal with expectations in following up an incredible run that included the organization's first playoff game in 15 years and ended with a loss to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series.
The O's energized the city and the Ravens' success gives Baltimore even more cause to celebrate its sports.
I noticed that the Orioles are still adding pitching instead of signing any good hitters. Do you think that's because they're building up the depth so that they can trade away one or two young pitchers to get a middle of the order bat and still have a lot of pitching?
-- Brandon R., Baltimore
I think it's a legitimate option. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has made it clear that he wasn't a fan of the trade proposals this winter involving the Orioles giving up their young pitching for a bat, and there's something to be said for waiting and seeing how the market changes with injuries in other camps.
Of course, the O's aren't immune to injury either, and if there's one thing Duquette has made clear, it's that he's of the belief that you can never have too much pitching. The competition this spring -- particularly for the rotation -- will make everyone better, and the hope is that the club will have some Major League-ready options available at Triple-A Norfolk.
If Baltimore does avoid a rash of injuries and have a relatively successful camp, I can see it trading one or two pitchers in an effort to boost the lineup. Keep in mind, though, there's a lot of young pitchers without track records of sustained success in the big leagues, and a solid spring doesn't always translate into in-season success. So while a trade is entirely possible, I'd still expect Duquette to err on the side of caution when it comes to keeping a pool of pitching options to get the Orioles through the grind of a 162-game regular season.
It's been great to see some of the players and manager Buck Showalter at Ravens games this season. Do the two teams actually support each other? I was curious what that relationship is like.
-- Greg S., Columbia, Md.
There's been much more of a community feel between the two city's sports teams in the past year, with Ravens players sporting Orioles gear and numerous O's players making it a point to tweet and publicly voice their backing of the Ravens' Super Bowl run. Center fielder Adam Jones has been perhaps the most vocal advocate of the Ravens, attending all of the team's postseason games, and he tweeted to fans that now it was the O's turn shortly after watching the confetti fall in New Orleans.
Chris Davis, Lew Ford, Zach Britton and Steve Johnson, who is a local product, were among those who took to social media to show their support before, during and after Sunday's game, and Showalter noted to reporters earlier this winter that it's been nice to see the two organizations come together. It hasn't always been such a close relationship, but the Orioles' playoff run, which featured Ravens players backing the Birds, has helped unite two organizations that have instilled pride in the city of Baltimore.
My biggest concern entering Spring Training is second base. Brian Roberts is a long shot. The rest are not good enough to get us to the top. Do you think the Orioles will make a move if Roberts can't do the job?
-- Mike F., Belair, Md.
If Roberts can't go, it's far more likely the Orioles turn to their internal options than try to make a move elsewhere. For one thing, there isn't a whole lot of clubs with expendable second basemen who would present an upgrade over Baltimore's own backup options. Secondly, the club did go out and get a few more players this winter to make sure it's covered in the event Roberts goes down.
Who are those options? Alexi Casilla and Ryan Flaherty, namely, although Yamaico Navarro's name could also be thrown in the mix. The trio will compete for a utility/bench role if Roberts can stay healthy, and all three are options to assume the second-base gig if he can't. I don't rule out the O's making a trade this spring, but they need a power bat much more than another second baseman.
I also wouldn't be so quick to rule out Roberts. At Fanfest, Roberts said that he's been working out more than in any offseason to date, and keep in mind he's in the final year of his contract. If Roberts wants to keep playing baseball, he has to prove he can stay healthy and productive.
Besides Camden Yards, during your travels with the team, what ballpark is your favorite to watch a game at?
-- Scott B., Baltimore
I get asked this question a lot, so maybe it'll help out some people who like to plan trips/vacations around visiting other stadiums. A lot of the older stadiums -- like Chicago's Wrigley Field and Boston's Fenway Park -- aren't very work friendly for reporters and don't top my list, but for fans, they are two of the "must-see" spots.
Some of my favorite road ballparks are San Francisco's AT&T Park, Anaheim's Angel Stadium and Pittsburgh's PNC Park. Kansas City and Seattle are also highly underrated and are great cities -- food-wise as well. Each stadium and city has something cool about it. I'll never complain when Interleague Play takes the Orioles to San Diego, although it doesn't take much to appease the media -- just a decent view to watch the game and some good food options.
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.