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Fans in the Baltimore area might be disgusted with the state of the Orioles, but they're still loyal to their team. The first hint came around 8 a.m., when they formed a long line outside the Baltimore Convention Center before the annual FanFest. By 2:30 p.m., a club spokesman estimated that 7,500 people had passed through the doors, compared to 6,800 last year.

Granted, season-ticket holders received an extra freebie this year, but that's still an impressive showing. During one of the forums, manager Sam Perlozzo glanced at the large crowd and said, "I've been coming to FanFest for 10 years and I can't believe how many people are here." And they were peaceful, with only one verbal attack on the front office personnel who took questions. It was brief, and hardly unexpected since I believe it came from the same guy who spouts off every winter. It's become a tradition of sorts. At least he's unarmed.

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As vice president Jim Duquette left the area that's the equivalent of a green room for talk show guests and headed toward the stage, he quipped: "Watch for the snipers." But it was safe. The media was grilled far worse during its forum that proceeded the front office's session.

A few highlights:

Brian Roberts said his surgically repaired left elbow is getting better every week, and he still expects to be in the lineup on Opening Day. He's began doing some upper-body weight training. And women still react to him as if Elvis just entered the building. It must be quite a burden for him. Poor guy.

Roberts, Rodrigo Lopez and Melvin Mora said they expect disgruntled shortstop Miguel Tejada to stay with the Orioles despite his pleas for a trade. "I think we were all surprised," Roberts said. "But I think we've all said things we didn't expect to get out. We all know Miggy loves it here. He just wants to win."

Roberts is thrilled that Jeff Conine has returned to the organization. "He's one of the guys who made me comfortable at the major league level," Roberts said. "He took me under his wing." Perlozzo noted Conine's influence in the clubhouse but also stressed that the former Marlin wouldn't have been signed if the front office didn't believe he still could contribute on the field, as well.

Perlozzo sounds like he's prepared to begin the season with Chris Ray as his closer. Asked about Jorge Julio, who's having an outstanding winter league season in Venezuela, Perlozzo endorsed him for the bullpen but never mentioned the closer's role –- at least not while one wave of reporters surrounded him.

When I asked Perlozzo about the one area he feels the Orioles still need to address more than any other, he noted that no team can have enough pitching. He clearly wants another starter. But he also wants a power bat for the outfield, "or maybe even a DH guy," he said.

Perlozzo also agreed that Javy Lopez probably wouldn't be happy as a full-time designated hitter, but his defensive play at first base will determine how much he's used there. Lopez clearly wants to remain a catcher as he enters another free-agent year, and Perlozzo endorsed any attempts to sign Lopez to a multi-year extension, though Ramon Hernandez will make most of the starts behind the plate.

Perlozzo became a bit emotional when asked to comment on Melvin Mora being the only current Oriole to attend Elrod Hendricks' memorial service in Baltimore. He described the criticism of the no-shows as "a little unfair" and noted how many players were out of the country, and how many positions remain vacant. And he didn't expect Hernandez to attend since the team just signed him.

Two executives shot down the rumored four-way trade that first appeared on a New York fan Web site. Pure fantasy.

Center fielder Luis Matos was sporting corn rows. That's hardly news, but it was an interesting look. Me? I'll stick with gel and the occasional highlights. Thanks for asking.

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