Checking on Britton and Hammel before today's FanFest

Has it really been a year since I sat behind the main stage for FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center and cranked out a blog entry about the Orioles' reported interest in reliever Luis Ayala?

There wasn't much enthusiasm for that rumor, but Ayala became an integral part of the Orioles' sensational bullpen last season, posting a 2.64 ERA in 66 games.

News broke during FanFest 2010 that the Orioles were bringing back Miguel Tejada, after I kept insisting that ship had sailed.

The Orioles aren't likely to make a grand announcement today. They've already celebrated the contract extensions of executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. But they're expecting a big turnout.

"I think everyone that lives in this city is really excited about their sports franchises right now," said left-hander Zach Britton, mentioning the Ravens as well as the Orioles. "I definitely think everybody's excited, especially kind of waiting to see what we'll do to top last year."

Britton will show up for spring training in top physical condition. He was brought along slowly in camp last year, and eventually shut down, because of continuing soreness and weakness in his left shoulder.

"I'm healthy now. I've got all of that stuff out of my mind, the feelings of not being healthy, all the doubts," said Britton, who's been working out with special assistant Brady Anderson.

"Now I'm healthy and I feel good. I threw my first bullpen here the other day. I'm way ahead of where I was last year at this time.

"I'll try to do my thing. I know when I'm healthy and I can command the baseball that I can do good things for this team, so that's my mindset."

Britton also said he's worked to correct some bad habits that developed while he was hurt.

britton-in-new-hat-sidebar.jpgBritton would like to join a rotation that will include Jason Hammel, who said his right knee feels good and he has no restrictions.

"I feel 100 percent right now," he said. "I'm very optimistic. I was a little scared after the season because things were still stiff. Finally, I was able to rest. I think that was the big key. You can't really heal if you don't have time to rest. It took about two weeks for the swelling and any fluid to subside, and then it was just a slow, gradual building back into a lifting process.

"As of right now, I'm doing normal workouts like I was doing before the injury, so I feel real good."

Hammel and the Orioles exchanged salary figures yesterday after failing to reach agreement on a new contract for 2013. Hammel has requested $8.25 million, while the Orioles offered $5.7 million.

"I want to play here," Hammel said. "That's for the agents and Dan to figure out. I'm not even paying attention to it, really. It's part of the process, the business side of baseball. I wouldn't think it would drag out at all.

"Obviously, I want to play here. I want to play here a long time. The quicker we can get it done, the quicker I can focus on baseball."

Duquette and Showalter could be around through the 2018 season after signing their extensions.

"It shows that the front office is supporting the people that made a lot of things work for us last year," Hammel said. "That trickles down to the players. Other guys see that. It's nice to keep the same core together and know those guys are going to be around a while."

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