Sore leg forces Markakis to sit


CHICAGO -- Orioles rookie outfielder Nick Markakis was taken to a local hospital before last night's game for precautionary reasons after complaining of lower right leg discomfort. After getting a sonogram, which showed no vascular problems, and being examined back at U.S. Cellular Field by the Chicago White Sox team physician, Markakis was diagnosed with a right calf strain.

Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said that the club is unsure how long Markakis will be out. The rookie is scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging test this morning.

After arriving at the stadium yesterday afternoon, Markakis alerted head trainer Richie Bancells that he was feeling soreness in his right leg, and Bancells decided to send him to the hospital for testing and a full diagnosis. The Orioles wanted to make sure that Markakis didn't have an infection or a blood clot.

"You are always concerned," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said before the game. "I think the trainers do the right thing. They try to rule out anything that could be serious. That's pretty much what we are doing - just get some precautionary tests just to make sure everything was OK. And when we know exactly what we're dealing with, we'll go from there."

After getting off to a slow start in his rookie season, the 22-year-old has turned his season around. In recent games he is 14-for-25, raising his average 44 points since June 21. Markakis is hitting .272 with two home runs and 21 RBIs.

Loewen dazzles on farm

It's not uncommon for prospects to go into a slump when being sent down to the minors after their first taste of the big leagues. But the opposite has happened with the Orioles' 22-year-old left-handed pitcher Adam Loewen.

Since being sent down to Triple-A Ottawa on June 25, Loewen has pitched 14 scoreless innings, giving up five hits and two walks while striking out 17. On Tuesday against Richmond in only his second Triple-A start, Loewen allowed three hits and struck out 10.

"I think that's tremendous for him," Perlozzo said. "Obviously the time in the big leagues meant a lot to him and he's taking it very seriously where he's at. That's exactly what he should be doing. Anyone who got big league hitters out like he did, he should be able to go down to Triple-A and dominate a little bit. Give the kid credit. He's doing what he's supposed to be doing."

At this point, even with Rodrigo Lopez and Daniel Cabrera struggling and the club unsure what it has in Russ Ortiz, it doesn't appear that the Orioles are in a hurry to recall Loewen. But at the very least, he has given them something to think about.

"The last thing we said to him was, 'Force your way back up here,'" Duquette said. "That would be great if we were in the position. He could have gone down there and sulked. But he's been using all his pitches and throwing his curveball for strikes. The reports we're getting on him are very, very upbeat."

Seeing stars, or not

Ramon Hernandez will learn today his destination during the All-Star break. The Orioles catcher is among five players eligible for the final spot on the American League squad, which is being decided by an Internet vote that closes today.

"To be honest, I don't care," Hernandez said when asked about it. "I really don't. I just want to finish the games here and finish the road trip. If I get in, I get in. If I don't, hey, that's cool."

Around the horn

Despite Rodrigo Lopez's struggles on Tuesday with Javy Lopez catching, Perlozzo is leaning toward keeping the pair together. "Hopefully [Tuesday] was an aberration," he said. ... Top pitching prospect Hayden Penn will make a rehabilitation start for Double-A Bowie on Sunday. Tim Byrdak will make a rehab appearance on Wednesday for Single-A Aberdeen, while Ryan Keefer will make his July 15 for Aberdeen. ... The Orioles will hold a news conference today to announce the signing of first-round draft pick Billy Rowell, the ninth overall selection in last month's draft. Rowell and the Orioles reached agreement last week on a $2.1 million signing bonus.

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