Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks during a news conference after Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium was postponed because of rain.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks during a news conference after Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium was postponed because of rain. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

Most players had already cleared out of the Orioles clubhouse by Friday afternoon when reporters were allowed inside. The team arrived home from Kansas City – swept by the Royals in four games in the American League Championship Series -- on Thursday evening, so most players packed up their lockers then.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was there, and said the sting of the end of the season hadn't worn off.

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"Not there yet," Showalter said. "There are so many things that can affect games that you don't really have control over. But I was proud of the way our guys competed obviously all season. It's tough to say goodbye to them. I'm going to miss them more than anything. Man, they keep me young. I live through them with a lot of things. More than anything, it's a tough conversation with me. I tell them I don't want to hear any goodbyes. I'll see you later. They need a break from me, though. They all do. I understand that."

Showalter said he had a conversation with Nelson Cruz, a pending free agent, on Friday. He knows that keeping Cruz, who will likely receive a multi-year deal after leading the majors with 40 homers, will be difficult. It won't stop the team from making him a $15.3 million qualifying offer to, at the very least, reap the benefit of a compensatory draft pick if Cruz signs elsewhere.

It will also be difficult to retain left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, who emerged as the team's most dependable reliever down the stretch after he was acquired in a trade deadline deal with Boston. After that performance, he's likely to get closer-caliber money on the free agent market.

"I just talked to Nelson," Showalter said. "I try to stay out of their hair. There's a time and place for everything. Nelson knows how much we like him and we'd like to have him here, but we also realize he's worked hard, a lot like Andrew, to present himself as having some options, and God bless him.

"They did a great job for us and they're going to have some decisions to make, one of which is whether they want to stay here," Showalter added. "It's obvious to me that Nelson would like to stay here, but we'll see. The game moves on with or without all of us. Makes it easier but we understand if you do this, then you can't do that, and if you do that, you can't do this. So, you try to understand the impact that everything has on everybody."

Orioles left-hander T.J. McFarland and catcher Steve Clevenger were the late stragglers packing up their stuff.

McFarland, who wasn't on the ALCS or AL Division Series rosters, said it hadn't hit him that the Orioles' postseason run was over until he started clearing out his locker Friday.

"For me, it didn't seem real,"  McFarland said. "It all happened so fast. When you lose that last game, you don't really realize it's the last game until you come back here and start packing up your locker but, yeah, when I was packing up my locker, I can't speak for everybody, but I know I definitely got the emotions again of us losing, the season's over. That's why the offseason's there, to relax and get back at it and then there's always next year."

McFarland said that Showalter shared some words with the team when they arrived back in Baltimore, the final time they'd all be together as a group.

"We're a close team," McFarland said. "A lot of the guys, we all root for one another, we're all rooting for each other in the playoffs. The message is that we left everything out there, we left everything out on the field. We've got no regrets. Everybody played to exactly what they wanted to. It just didn't work out for us."

Showalter said he and executive vice president Dan Duquette have already started talking about next season. A more formal meeting will occur early this week. Picking up player options – club options on both left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and right-hander Darren O'Day will likely be exercised -- and signing the organization's minor league staff will be among the first offseason priorities.

Some former Orioles will continue to play this postseason -- Michael Morse and Travis Ishikawa, who made an impact in the Giants' pennant-clinching National League Championship Series Game 5.

Morse, who was a trade deadline acquisition in 2013, hit the game-tying homer, and Ishikawa – who was in spring training camp with the O's in 2013 and played for Triple-A Norfolk – hit a three-run walkoff homer, sending himself into baseball history.

But don't expect Showalter to be watching the World Series with excitement.

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"Watching it makes me ill," Showalter quipped.

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