Markakis to make spring debut Wednesday
Recovering right fielder will serve as designated hitter vs. Pirates
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Nick Markakis ran a considerable number of sprints for the first time on Wednesday morning, and the Orioles right fielder is slated to play in his first game next Wednesday against the Pirates as he continues to progress toward being ready for Opening Day.
"As far as I'm concerned, that's what I'm looking at," Markakis said of being able to suit up April 6. "I definitely want to be out there. Opening Day is a special day around baseball, you want to be out there. You don't want to be sitting there on the bench just watching."
Markakis, who has never been on the disabled list in six Major League seasons, is doing everything in his power to make that happen. The 28-year-old took live swings over the weekend and was encouraged with how good his timing was at the plate, jokingly calling out to manager Buck Showalter, "I'm ready." But Markakis, who will be the designated hitter next Wednesday, admits there is still work to be done, namely on the defensive side.
"I still have some tightness in my legs, but it's 10 times better than it was last week," Markakis said. "It definitely concerned me [having trouble fielding] full speed, side to side. But I shagged today in BP and I was going side to side fine. It wasn't nearly 100 percent, but it was better than I had done in the past when I was feeling things in my legs.
"Overall, it's going great. I think we are kind of over that middle, a little over that halfway bump. We still [have] plenty of time left. We still got 20-something days."
Showalter said after Wednesday's 6-0 win over the Twins that he was encouraged with the report on Markakis, and the Orioles manager announced Thursday that the team had mapped out a schedule for Markakis that will have him ready on Opening Day. How many games Markakis will get in and how long it will take for him to take the field is still up in the air and dependent on how he feels.
"Right now, it's just not necessarily a waiting game, but a cautious game," Markakis said. "[I'm] just taking it easy, trying not to overdo anything. My plan is not to get in as many Spring Training games, my plan is to get in as many games as I can during the [regular] season."
Markakis has played in at least 160 games the last three seasons and prides himself on being a player who the Orioles can rely on to be in the lineup every day. Unsurprisingly, he has never missed an Opening Day, a streak he is confident can stay intact.
"As of right now, we are still looking to be on target of where we want to be," he said.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.