Contract renewal bothers Markakis

The Baltimore Sun

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Nick Markakis chose his words carefully, making sure not to openly criticize the Orioles, but his disappointment was obvious.

The Orioles failed to agree to terms with the young right fielder by yesterday's deadline, meaning the outfielder's contract will be renewed for the 2008 season.

Markakis will make $455,000 after earning $400,000 last year.

"We couldn't come to an agreement with anything, so we're just going to take it and get renewed," said Markakis, 24, who is at the forefront of the Orioles' rebuilding plan. "That's just how the Orioles feel. I don't have much of a choice. I'm just going to have to deal with it."

Markakis, who hit .300 last year with 23 homers, 112 RBIs and 18 steals in his second full season, is eligible for arbitration after this season. Players with fewer than three years of service must accept the contract renewal if they can't agree to a one-year deal. The Orioles reached an agreement with the rest of their players in that category.

"This is the system, and ... if there were changes I could make to the system, I would have several of them," said Orioles president Andy MacPhail, who wasn't worried that the development would affect the club's relationship with one of its top players. "But this is what the system calls for, and it's not an unusual occurrence for a baseball team, this time of year, to be renewing players."

Markakis is among several young prominent players to have their contracts renewed in recent days. The Philadelphia Phillies renewed the contract of ace left-hander Cole Hamels, and the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves did the same with Prince Fielder and Jeff Francoeur, respectively. Fielder and Hamels went public with their displeasure.

Day One for Klentak

Matt Klentak, the Orioles' new director of baseball operations, arrived at Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday, feeling like any other person on his first day on the job.

"It's mostly been a lot of shaking hands and getting to know people both from the front office staff and the coaches," said Klentak, 27. "I anticipate that will go on for a while."

Klentak, who had spent the past four years working in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department, was hired last week as a top assistant to MacPhail. He was seated next to MacPhail for the Orioles' 10-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Klentak will also join MacPhail soon on a trip to the club's minor league complex in Sarasota.

Roberts watch

A Chicago Cubs scout was again on hand to watch Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who went 0-for-3 with an RBI, two runs scored and his fifth steal of the spring in yesterday's game.

The Orioles have also been scouting several Cubs in Arizona, and Dave Engle, one of the Orioles' top scouts, is expected to be in Mesa, Ariz., today. One team source said there have been no recent developments in the trade talks between the Orioles and Cubs, but both sides are optimistic a deal still could get done.

Around the horn

Utility man Freddie Bynum had a magnetic resonance imaging on his right knee yesterday, but Orioles manager Dave Trembley wasn't sure of the results after yesterday's game. Bynum said his knee was sore, but he didn't think it was anything serious. ... Troy Patton returned to Baltimore yesterday and will have an arthrogram taken on his left shoulder either today or tomorrow. ... Trembley said reliever Dennis Sarfate would have to "pitch his way off the club" to not make the team. ... Jay Payton, Chris Roberson, Scott Moore and hitting coach Terry Crowley are battling viruses.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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