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O's notes: Markakis works out
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06/11/2003  8:23 PM ET 
O's notes: Markakis works out
Hargrove shuffles lineup after Tuesday's shutout
Vote now for the 2003 All-Star game
The O's expect to use Nick Markakis as an outfielder. (courtesy Young Harris JC)
BALTIMORE -- Nick Markakis worked out for the second time at Camden Yards in nine days, but this time, he was a member of the Orioles' organization, so the workout was not pressure-filled.

But he was the same talented prospect who swatted balls out of Camden Yards in a personal audition June 2. Markakis, the Orioles' first-round pick who signed Tuesday for a $1.85 million signing bonus, continues to impress.

In front of a larger batting practice crowd there to watch Sammy Sosa send moon shots over the left-field wall, Markakis calmly parked a few balls into the right-center field seats with deceiving left-handed power.

Markakis, a 19-year-old from Young Harris Junior College, had 18 family members at the press conference Wednesday to formally announce his signing. He put up eye-popping numbers for Young Harris in 2003, hitting .439 with 21 homers and 92 RBIs with an .843 slugging percentage. He was 12-0 with 1.68 ERA as a pitcher.

"I am a guy who is trying the best he can, but doesn't try to do too much," he said. "I like Camden Yards a lot. It's a great place to play in."

Markakis will report to Single-A Aberdeen and was able to meet former Orioles infielder Bill Ripken. Markakis will join 2002 first-round pick Adam Loewen, who signed just minutes before the May 27 deadline, on the Aberdeen roster.

The IronBirds are owned by Cal Ripken and their home, Ripken Stadium, is considered one of the finest lower-level minor league facilities in baseball.

"I am really excited about meeting Cal," Markakis said. "I am glad to be with an organization like Baltimore. It's a great place."

Markakis was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds the past two seasons, but said he was turned off by their lack of interest in signing him. The Orioles signed the seventh overall pick in a week, a far cry from the 11th-hour negotiations with Loewen.

"We signed him because of his ability, not signability," scouting director Tony DeMacio said. "He's the guy we wanted all along."

The IronBirds might also feature second-round pick Brian Finch, the Texas A&M right-hander who is close to signing, according to DeMacio.

Spears signs: The Orioles added another draft pick to the mix by signing fifth-rounder Nathaniel Spears, a high school shortstop from Port Charlotte, Fla. Spears, considered a slick fielder with above-average speed, will report to the team's minor-league training complex in Sarasota, Fla. The club does not want to put a player fresh out of high school on the Aberdeen roster.

He is likely to begin with Aberdeen next season.

Decision coming: As Rodrigo Lopez readies to return to the starting rotation, the Orioles are faced with a decision about their pitching staff.

Lopez struck out 13 Double-A Reading batters Monday and the club has not scheduled another rehabilitation start, meaning he could pitch Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sunday is Pat Hentgen's scheduled day to pitch and Hargrove would not guarantee the struggling veteran would start again. The club released no decision, but Hargrove said the team "pretty much" knows what it wants to do.

Lopez has not been happy about the team's cautious approach to his injury. He has been on the disabled list since May 3 with a strained left oblique muscle. He did not pitch well in his final bullpen session Saturday in St. Louis, and Hargrove sensed it was partly because of anger.

"I think he was a little upset that he was out there," Hargrove said. "That was the "I-don't-need-another-rehab-start" performance."

Lineup changes: Hargrove went with an adjusted lineup a night after being held scoreless by Chicago's Shawn Estes and two relievers. Melvin Mora was moved from left field to shortstop as Deivi Cruz got the night off. B.J. Surhoff made his second start since being activated from the disabled list May 28.

Farm report: Double-A Bowie outfielder Tim Raines Jr. was named Eastern League Player of the Week for the week of June 2. Raines batted .571 (11-for-21) with three doubles, a triple, six RBIs and seven runs. He has an 11-game hitting streak to increase his average to .305 and he leads the Eastern League with 26 stolen bases.

Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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