Finally time for FanFest

This will be the only blog entry I file today from outside the Baltimore Convention Center, barring late-breaking news as I'm heading back home in the evening.

Don't hold your breath for the Orioles to announce a major signing at FanFest. It's doubtful that they would confirm a deal pending a physical - more fallout from the Grant Balfour debacle - and it would be extremely difficult to arrange and complete the exams, approve the results and get a signature on a contract before the crowd files out.

The Orioles are determined to make a late splash before heading to Sarasota. They're willing to push the payroll to the $100 million mark. It seems inevitable that they're going to reel in one of the big free agent fish left in the lake.

I'm not just throwing you a line.

A.J. Burnett makes the most sense for both sides. Nelson Cruz still makes no sense to me - surrendering a first-round pick for a right-handed designated hitter and part-time left fielder with defensive limitations.

Don't look for either guy to walk out from behind the curtain today on the main stage.

I arrived at FanFest last year and heard about Earl Weaver's passing as I walked to the Convention Center. Not the kind of news you want to deliver. I'm sure the memory will hit me again later this morning.

Paul Blair would have celebrated his 70th birthday today. He will be on the minds of many fans and former teammates.

Current players began trickling into Baltimore this week. Kevin Gausman left Louisiana, where a modest snowfall paralyzed the area and kept him amused.

"The past few days have been kind of crazy," Gausman said Thursday night on WBAL Radio. "They've got record lows here and everybody is freaking out. They shut down highways. There's like two inches of snow. It's pretty ridiculous. It's funny to me."

Gausman worked out at the mini-camp in Sarasota earlier this month, and he continues to focus on developing a third pitch to go with his fastball and changeup. He needs it to reach the heights expected of him.

"That's one thing I definitely know," he said. "I didn't really realize it until I got in the big leagues. I didn't realize that emphasis till I got here that I needed that third pitch."

The slider can make him complete.

"I'm really happy going into the year because I felt like I really learned how to throw my slider out of the bullpen," he said. "When I started, I kind of babied it and it was kind of hit or miss some days. When I was out of the bullpen, it was pretty much good for me the whole time.

"I think I worked out of the bullpen the last six weeks of the season and that was a big pitch for me. I really learned how to throw it like my fastball. That's something I was always afraid to do as a starter because I didn't want to walk guys. That's a big thing for me.

"Before last season, I also had a curveball, so if my slider wasn't good, my curveball was. Last year, the one difficult thing for me was having only one breaking pitch, but I'm learning this offseason how to throw it and how to throw it as a starter. I learned how to do it out of the bullpen last year. I'm pretty happy with my development going forward."

Third baseman Manny Machado also will participate in today's FanFest after being cleared yesterday, as expected, to begin baseball activities. He'll provide more details on his recovery while meeting with reporters next to the main stage at the Convention Center.

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