ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Adam Jones and Nick Markakis had started every game this season — all 141 — before manager Buck Showalter decided to rest the two Orioles outfielders to start Sunday's series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Showalter said he saw Sunday as an opportunity to give both Jones and Markakis a day off to get ahead of any late-season physical issues. It was also a good day to give them a break on Tropicana Field's spongy turf, which can lead to some soreness on legs and backs.
"The turf has heavy-legged some people," Showalter said. "It's another thing about playing here, especially this time of the year. … We all know that they would like to play, but it's the best for them and the best for the club. It's one of the benefits of having a full roster this time of the year. It's one of those things."
Jones eventually entered Sunday's game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth and singled and later scored on Nelson Cruz's three-run triple. He remained in the game and played center field. Markakis did not play Sunday.
With the Orioles finishing the regular season with 17 games in 17 days after Thursday's scheduled day off, beginning with a doubleheader against the New York Yankees on Friday at Camden Yards, Showalter believed this was a good opportunity to give two of his most instrumental players some rest.
"When I came in here [Sunday], I was going to try to give them both a day on this turf, especially what it does to guys legs who have been playing a lot like those two guys," Showalter said. "Hopefully it will help a little bit. I think everybody needs a little mental, emotional day now and then, too.
"They've worked very hard to get to this point, and I want to keep them that way. They won't ever be 100 percent until the season is over. One day isn't going to change that much, but I didn't like the feeling I was getting. … They don't voice it. I just think they need a day."
Markakis had played in 242 consecutive games, including 158 straight starts dating back to Sept. 11, 2013, and Jones last missed a game in the finale last season.
"I know with our percentages, an extremely high percentage of injuries happen on day games after night games [and] travel [days] — non-joint injuries," Showalter said. "I'm talking about hamstrings, quads, obliques, those things. They also happen when a player is off balance, almost all those do, and fatigue creates that."