Markakis' 'K' run grows

The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK -- Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis acknowledges that he goes through a couple of stretches a season in which he picks up strikeouts in bunches. Those stretches are just lasting a little longer than usual this season.

"I've been going in and out of those streaks all year," Markakis said. "I just have to make adjustments and figure it out. I'm still trying to adjust to off-speed pitches, and whenever I do get that fastball to hit, I'm missing it usually. I need to be able to do something with it."

Markakis was struck out three times yesterday by New York Yankees starter Ian Kennedy and has 15 strikeouts in the past 10 games. He struck out seven times in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium and entered last night ranked 10th in the American League in strikeouts.

Fifteen of Markakis' strikeouts have come with runners in scoring position, and the outfielder entered last night's game hitting just .220 in those situations. Markakis struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning last night.

"This is all new to me right now," said Markakis, who is hitting .257 with eight homers and 22 RBIs. "The way I'm getting pitched to is new to me. It's just something that I have to adapt to. I think in the long run, it will be something that I'm able to cut down on."

The third-year player rarely shows emotion on the field. But there have been times recently when he has worn a look of frustration on his trip back to the dugout after a strikeout. A considerable number of his strikeouts, including three of his four in the first two games here, have come with Markakis looking at a called third strike. Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he has spoken to hitting coach Terry Crowley about it but has not addressed Markakis.

"You really can't do anything about it," Markakis said. "Whether it was a ball or strike, I'm going to stay within my zone. I'm not going to go out of that zone just to put the ball in play. I have a pretty good understanding of what the strike zone is. If they ring me up on a bad pitch, I'll continue to take it. Once you start doing that and going out of the strike zone, you get into bad habits, and that's something that I don't want to start."

Mora out of lineup

Third baseman Melvin Mora tried to talk his way into the starting lineup last night, but Trembley chose to give him the night off. Mora was removed from the game in the third inning on Wednesday after getting spiked on his right hand by a sliding Hideki Matsui.

Mora took batting practice before the game to make sure he could grip a bat. He said he was available last night as a pinch hitter, and the hope is he will be back in the lineup tonight.

"[Wednesday], I couldn't throw the ball, but after like a half-hour, it came back to normal," Mora said. "It was scary because I was hurt and I thought I had broken my finger. But when I came in and started feeling it and started moving around, [it was fine]."

Hawkins punished

The league yesterday handed Yankees reliever LaTroy Hawkins a three-game suspension and fined him an undisclosed amount for throwing a pitch near Luke Scott's head in the sixth inning Tuesday. Hawkins immediately was ejected for the pitch, which came three innings after Yankees star Derek Jeter was hit by a fastball by Daniel Cabrera. Hawkins filed an appeal, so he was available to pitch last night.

"I don't wish anything bad on anybody," said Scott, who has said he has forgiven Hawkins. "There are consequences for our actions as men, as players in this game. I just hope everyone moves on from it and learns."

Pace of game

Because of a prior commitment, Trembley couldn't make it on Wednesday's league conference call, which focused on speeding up the pace of games. So he did the next best thing: He went to the league offices in New York to discuss the topic with Major League Baseball officials.

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