BALTIMORE -- For the first time since 1997, the Baltimore Orioles are coming off a year that calls for an encore.
After a run of 14 straight losing seasons, the Orioles went 93-69 in 2012 and beat the then-defending AL champion Texas Rangers in the wild-card game. Baltimore then took the New York Yankees to the maximum five games before falling in the division series.
Now it’s time for the Orioles to prove their sensational bounce-back season wasn’t just an aberration, but rather the start of something big in a city that has renewed its love for the long downtrodden franchise.
"You always knew this was a sports town, you always knew this was an Orioles town," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "That playoff atmosphere blew my wildest expectations out of the water as to what this city was like when this team wins."
So while the Baltimore Ravens were winning the Super Bowl, the Orioles’ most significant moves during the offseason were to provide extensions for manager Buck Showalter and vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. Both are signed through 2018.
Duquette didn’t delve deep into the free agent market over the winter, but Baltimore didn’t lose much, either. So, with a few exceptions, this is the same squad that finished a surprising second place in the unforgiving AL East.
"Why fix it if it ain’t broke?" right fielder Nick Markakis said. "We’ve got a young team, a lot of good young players, guys coming up. I can understand where Dan and Buck were coming from. We have a good lineup."
Markakis played in only 104 games last season because of injuries, one of several Orioles to miss significant playing time. Roberts was used in 16 games, outfielder Nolan Reimold (neck) was sidelined after April 30 and right-hander Jason Hammel -- the ace of the starting rotation -- pitched in only two regular-season games.