The Orioles estimated that about 500 fans waited to greet them at Camden Yards early this morning when they arrived from New York at 12:50 a.m. The crowd formed a human tunnel and cheered as players, coaches and manager Buck Showalter walked through it.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette signed autographs again this afternoon before making it inside the Orioles' clubhouse, where a few players packed up their belongings for the winter. The roll call included Wei-Yin Chen, Troy Patton, Robert Andino, Lew Ford and Darren O'Day. Most of the guys already had emptied out their lockers and headed home for the winter.
Duquette stood on the field later in the day and fielded questions from reporters.
On whether he's focused on adding offense from outside the organization:
"We had a good ballclub and we had the people to get the job done. A base hit here or there, or an out here or there, and we'd be playing for the American League championship. I think the experience of playing in the postseason is a good experience for everyone to have, but I also realize when you get in close competition, it helps you identify your strengths, but also the areas where you need to improve to win the championship. So, that's something we can take a look at in the offseason. But the core of our lineup is good and it's young."
On the Orioles' biggest need:
"We took a giant step forward this year and we re-energized the fan base. And improving the number of games we improved was significant. Buck had a good foundation of pieces here. We've continued to build on that so we can have a winning organization. Not just a good team for this year, but a foundation upon which we can build on in the future, so we can have a good team year in and year out. That's really the Oriole Way and it's the same way that they build the great Oriole teams and we're doing the same thing now. We have a core group of players on the ballclub that can return, and we can have them together for a few years and we can take another run at the championship. My philosophy is, if you have a good team and you get to the postseason and you knock on the door, one of the times you're going to get through. This year we knocked on the door. We didn't quite get through, but we made a big step forward."
On whether he wants Mark Reynolds to return:
"All the individual contract situations, I'm not going to address today because that's for the offseason, but I can tell you that we have a team here full of gritty baseball players and they come to play every single day. And what Mark Reynolds did the second half of the season, getting himself to be a good first baseman, working hard every single day, 20 minutes a day to be a good defender at first base, the team really appreciated it and he made a significant contribution to the team, particularly in August and September."
On whether it may be easier to attract top-flight free agents and if he'll attempt it:
"The Orioles this year, we won 96 games and in order to win 96 games, you've got to have a good group of core players, and the players around the league, they know what kind of baseball the Orioles play under Buck Showalter. We play hard, we play to win, we did something unprecedented in terms of winning the close games this year, because the team executed. And they did it when the team was celebrating its 20th anniversary (at Camden Yards), so we got to tie the great tradition of the Orioles to this team and re-energize the fans. I've said all along, the way to build a good ballclub is from the ground up, OK? It's not from the top down. But having said that, we signed a couple good free agents last year that did a good job. Wei-Yin Chen was one of them. We picked up Nate McLouth. He came and he did a very good job. Top quality work. So we're always looking for opportunity. I'm going tell you this: The core players are going to come from our minor league system, the really good ballplayers, and we've got a couple of them on the horizon that can help our pitching staff."
On whether this club has a No. 1 starter:
"We're going to find out. We've got a couple of top picks that went three in the country and four in the country in Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. They have the type of stuff that could develop into the top end of the rotation. We have a couple top starters. Do we have a No. 1 starter yet? I think we need to continue to look for a No. 1 starter. But we might have a couple right here."
On whether he'll be even more aggressive in the international market:
"We're going to look for ballplayers around the globe. A lot of the investments that we made worked for us. We're continuing to scout around the globe. We hope to get into Europe this year and we're going to continue to look in the Caribbean and also in the Far East."
More on the pitching staff:
"We really put our focus on rebuilding the pitching staff because a year ago, the pitching staff was really where you had to focus. We still have a good group of core players. I think the good news is, we have a pitching staff to build on. If you think about the pitching staff that pitched for us the second half of the season and you take a look at the work we got from Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, those guys did a terrific job. The pickup of (Joe) Saunders was key for us. And of course Chen did a great job the whole season. He really stepped up and stabilized us. We have the opportunity to return all of them, with the exception of Joe Saunders, who's a free agent. But we have more pitching depth than we had a year ago and it's young pitching, which I think will continue to improve under the tutelage of the pitching coaches that we have."
On how much he credits former executive Andy MacPhail:
"A lot of the core players that Buck and Andy put together, they're here and they're part of this team. If you take a look at the work with the team up the middle, you have Matt Wieters, of course, and the Adam Jones trade was a terrific trade, with Chris Tillman developing as a pitcher this year. And of course the J.J. Hardy deal was a big deal. All of those served to stabilize the team. And we have that as a foundation. We're continuing to add to that foundation, so that we can have a good team year in and year out. Hopefully, we can get the people we need to get over the hump so we can win the American League championship."
On whether he's more inclined to pursue a big-ticket free agent:
"The success of the club gives our fans hope that we can have a good team year in and year out. The idea of having a foundation and then adding to the foundation as the season progresses, like we did this year with Saunders. ... You take a look at the work Saunders did, he pitched good for the team down the stretch, he helped us win both elimination games, he was a veteran pitcher we added who did exactly what we wanted him to do. He helped stabilize the pitching staff, and his experience in the playoffs showed the way for some of our younger pitchers. I think that's more likely the type of acquisition we would make, but I'm going to tell you right now, we have the foundation to have a good team here. We have the guys on this team to be competitive and be a top-flight team."
On whether he could still sign a bunch of minor league free agents for depth:
"We need to depth to get through the long season. If you look at the players we added, McLouth - Markakis got hurt, Reimold got hurt, Endy Chavez hurt - so we really needed McLouth to come along, or somebody like that. And of course Chris Davis developed in the outfield. If you have a good staff and they develop players through the year, I think some of those questions get answered naturally. If you look at how Jones came along as an RBI man, and you look at the growth of Chris Davis into an everyday slugger, and if you look at how Matt Wieters developed into a good RBI man, that's good player development and we saw those players develop right here during the season."
On whether Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta are still viewed as starters:
"We have depth to our pitching staff now. That's really to be decided in spring training. I like to look at the team and say, 'What role does the player fulfill on a championship team?' And we found out Brian Matusz can pitch in prime time against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. And we found out Tommy Hunter can do the same thing. So I think that when you look at your team and you have a lot of pitchers, I think a lot of those decisions can be made in spring training. I think all pitchers should start out as starters, frankly, so that they get the experience of pitching and pitching and pitching and developing their pitches."
On how much fun he had this season:
"The people around this team, I think if you ask them, they'll tell you, and myself included, this is one of my most fun years. It was the most fun year. Because when you're on something that's getting better and improving, there's a certain energy because there's a lot of people that are improving at the same time and that's the way this team was. This team got off to a great start and these guys had great enthusiasm. They won a few close teams early in the year and I think it gave them a lot of confidence. And when we had holes, we were able to find people to fill them. It doesn't always work that way."
On whether he expects Brian Roberts to play in 2013:
"Yes. He's working on his rehab and he's doing well on his rehab. He's moving around and he's starting to run and he wants to come back and play ball."
On whether the Orioles might increase their payroll:
"Our team was very competitive this year and we should be able to continue to field a highly competitive team within the revenues of our market."
On the large number of arbitration-eligible players:
"We have over a dozen arbitration-eligible players, but we've taken a look at the payroll and we think we can fit most of them on the ballclub."
On whether he's comfortable with the alternatives at second base:
"We're working on placing Ryan Flaherty in winter ball so he gets some more at-bats, but I thought he did a great job and has shown that he's a really capable major league infielder. And Robert Andino is a pro."
On whether Jason Hammel requires a second surgery on his right knee:
"No. I spoke to him about that last night and he should be OK."
On whether he's gotten any indication that Jim Thome wants to play next season:
"I didn't have a chance to talk to Jim Thome, but he did a nice job for us and I really appreciate him working hard to come back and contribute to the team as a role model, a patient hitter, as a professional player. I thought he added a real veteran presence to our clubhouse and to our lineup."