Ripken 'very encouraged' by 2011 Orioles, thinks Vlad is 75

Cal Ripken Jr. was in York, Pa. on Wednesday to dedicate a new distribution center for Ollie's Bargain Outlet -- the Ironman of discounting shopping chains. The Orioles legend was asked about the current Baltimore squad, and he said he is "very encouraged" heading into 2011.

"I'd like to think of myself as a fan," he told The York Daily Record. "I'm very encouraged. Buck Showalter did an amazing job last year when he took over. ... There's high expectations that they'll play the game right, they'll execute right. He has a great track record."

Ripken said the development of the Orioles' young starting pitchers will be critical.

"I think the key still remains in the young pitching staff and how they're gonna respond, if they respond the same way as they did to [Showalter] towards the end of last year," Ripken said. "There's a lot of reasons for optimism, because we've made some good changes."

One of those changes -- and we'll see if it ends up being a good one -- was the recent signing of 36-year-old designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero. At the event, Ripken got in a playful jab at Guerrero's expense.

"Vlad's about 75 years old now, isn't he?" Ripken joked. "Vlad is amazing. Vlad's got a lot left in his tank."