OAKLAND, Calif. -- In what is being called the "Year of the Rookie Pitcher" in the American League, Orioles first-year outfielder Nick Markakis is barely getting mention as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate - at least outside the Orioles' clubhouse.
Several of Markakis' teammates in recent days have supported his candidacy and wondered why his name isn't getting talked about for the award more.
"He definitely [is getting overlooked], probably because he had such a slow start," Orioles closer Chris Ray said. "You look at this numbers, he definitely has to be the top rookie position player. His numbers are outstanding. The only person I can think of that could beat him is [Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander]. With the Tigers being in the position where they are, that helps his case. But I think if Markakis keeps doing what he is doing, he has as good of a shot as anybody."
Even after a tremendous August in which Markakis batted .354 with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs and became just the 11th rookie since 1956 to hit at least 10 homers in a calendar month, the 22-year-old probably needs a huge September to enter the discussion.
That's mostly because of how good Verlander (15-7, 3.42 ERA), Minnesota's injured starter Francisco Liriano (12-3, 2.19), Los Angeles starter Jered Weaver (9-2, 2.33) and Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon (0.93 ERA, 35 saves) have been this season.
"You had all your leaders early and I think people kind of had their minds made up," Orioles designated hitter Jay Gibbons said. "But if you step back and look at all the numbers right now, he should be in the top three."
For his part, Markakis, who entered last night's game hitting .312 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs, said that he hasn't given the award much thought.
"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "We'll look at that at the end of the year. I am just going to go out every day and try to help the team."
No winter ball for Tejada
Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada has endeared himself even further to his fans in his native Dominican Republic by returning to the country each year in the offseason to play winter ball. But Tejada said on Thursday that he is "definitely" not going to be playing this year.
"My daughter [Alexa] just started first grade and I can't take her out of school to go back to the Dominican," said Tejada, who plans to spend this offseason with his family at their home in Florida. "Now, I've got to go back to the Dominican just for visiting."
Tejada said that he hopes his fans in the Dominican Republic understand.
"It's tough," he said. "I think they have to understand that the family comes first. I had a lot of good years up there and I hope they are not mad at me."
A new look
Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo plans to give several of his regulars some rest this weekend in Oakland. He started last night by giving Brian Roberts and Brandon Fahey the night off. Today, he plans on sitting Kevin Millar and Melvin Mora and tomorrow, the tentative plan is to have Tejada serve as the club's designated hitter, giving Gibbons the afternoon off.
Perlozzo said that center fielder Corey Patterson, who hasn't played since spraining his AC joint in his right shoulder on Tuesday, is doubtful for the Oakland series. Ramon Hernandez (strained side muscle) also is likely out a few more days.
Jeff Fiorentino, the 23-year-old outfielder who impressed club officials in his stint with the Orioles last season after being promoted from Single-A, admitted that he was surprised to get a call-up yesterday.
Fiorentino was hitting just .205 through June for Double-A Bowie, struggles he mostly attributed to injuries (he tore his left hamstring twice and sprained his left ankle). But since getting healthy, Fiorentino batted .340 over the past two months, raising his average 70 points.
"I put myself in such a hole in the beginning of the season that I didn't really know what they thought of me," he said. "I was just trying to get back on their radar."
With rosters eligible to expand yesterday, the Orioles also recalled relievers Julio Manon and Winston Abreu. Ed Rogers and Tim Byrdak both cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Ottawa