Back on the beat…

I’m back on the Orioles beat and rejuvenated after a week of vacation. So, let’s catch up and look ahead…

*If you missed it, top prospect Zach Britton talked to about his 2010 season as part of the 2011 MLB Rookie Career Development Program. You can find that link here.

*The Orioles avoided arbitration with Adam Jones Monday night and followed suit by agreeing to figures with Felix Pie, Jim Johnson and J.J. Hardy on Tuesday.

They’ve exchanged figures with Jeremy Guthrie and Luke Scott, which means if the two sides can’t agree they will go to an arbitration hearing. Last year, both Scott and Guthrie avoided the always-contentious hearing, although Guthrie’s case went right up to the wire. 

In his second year of being arbitration-eligible, Guthrie went 11-14 with a 3.83 ERA in 32 starts in 2010, and he — like Scott — will command another pay raise for this season. Guthrie proposed a salary of $6.5 million for 2011, while the O’s countered with a $5 million offer. The 31-year-old was the ace who anchored the Orioles’ rotation, particularly in the second half, when he went 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA in his final 14 starts.

Meanwhile, Scott, voted the Most Valuable Oriole by the local media, hit a career-high 27 home runs and totaled 72 RBIs in 131 games. He proposed a salary of $6.85 million, with Baltimore offering $5.7 million. A streaky hitter most of his career, Scott put together a solid 4 1/2-month stretch and finished with a .284 batting average and a .535 slugging percentage.

*Kevin Gregg officially signed a two-year deal with an option for 2013 that kicks in automatically. I’ve had a lot of questions and outrage over handing a reliever “all this money” but it’s important to note that Gregg’s option hinges on him not only being the team’s closer, but a pretty effective one. I blogged this briefly before I left, but here it is again: The fine print on the option is if he finishes 50 games in 2012 or 100 between ’11 and ’12.

The Orioles’ back half of the bullpen, which now has Gregg, Koji Uehara, Jim Johnson and Michael Gonzalez will be an interesting storyline this spring and for most of the season. Assuming they all stay healthy –and that’s a big “if” — manager Buck Showalter can either name a closer or piece together a game depending on how he sees fits. With four guys with closing experience, that’s a rare luxury.

*Ready for Spring Training? Here’s all you need to know about the Orioles season at the newly-revamped Ed Smith Stadium. If you’re a golfer or would just like to help a good cause and meet some past and present players, check out the inaugural OriolesREACH Birdland Golf Classic at The Founders Club in Sarasota on Thursday, February 17.

*A quick reminder that FanFest details, including autograph sessions and times, are available on The event is Saturday Jan. 29 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

I’ll be there as part of the media forum, so if you see me wandering around and looking lost (it is my first FanFest), direct me that way, please.

*Finally, what better way to catch up on things than to answer some questions? Got something you want answered or looked into? Wondering about the Orioles rotation or what the projected 25-man roster looks like? You can email me  or ask me on Twitter, just be sure to include your name and city.

26 days til pitchers and catchers report. Let the countdown begin. 

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