Markakis stands out as Orioles start the season strong

His strong start has been overshadowed a bit by his good friend and fellow Orioles mainstay Brian Roberts, but right fielder Nick Markakis leads the first-place Orioles -- that will never get old, will it? -- in batting average and has made significant contributions in each of the team’s four season-opening wins.

The finest play, of course, was has game-saving, Web-gemming grab on Saturday. With two out, two on and Baltimore leading by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist smashed a Kevin Gregg pitch deep to right field. Markakis tracked it to the warning track, leaped and snagged it at the top of the wall. “It’s a crime he hasn't won a Gold Glove by this point," Roberts told reporters afterward.

It’s not a crime -- unless it’s one of those unwritten rules like the one that Jake Fox broke last week -- but Roberts is right when he says that Markakis deserves to get one of those gaudy gloves for his trophy room.

Offensively, Markakis is in a groove. He drove in two runs in the season opener, and he took back-to-back multi-hit games into today’s off day. He is batting .429 so far. Markakis appears to be more comfortable at the plate, and is benefiting from having players such as Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero and Mark Reynolds behind him in the lineup (even though those newcomers have started slowly).   

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Monday that he doesn’t think Markakis has changed anything, anecdotally guaranteeing that Markakis approached the game the same way in high school. He added that the new coaches on his staff didn’t realize how good Markakis was before they saw him up close in Sarasota.

With the spotlight now on Baltimore -- at least for the time being -- maybe one of baseball’s oft-overlooked stars will finally get recognized with an invitation to his first All-Star Game or that Gold Glove at season’s end. It has only been a few games, but Markakis is heading in the right direction.

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