Nick Markakis starting return, confident he will get necessary at-bats

SARASOTA, FLA. — Having been cleared to resume baseball activities Thursday, Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis said he's confident he will have enough time -- and at-bats -- to be ready for the regular season.

Markakis hasn't played since March 1, when he was scratched from the starting lineup with neck stiffness. After an MRI, Markakis was diagnosed with a small disk herniation in his neck.


On Friday, he will take swings off a tee and do some light throwing. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the progression, which is slated to take three to four days, will include soft-toss hitting, long-toss throwing and live batting practice thrown by coaches.

And now that Markakis, has been cleared, that progress begins Friday.


"That's what I was hoping for," Markakis said. "I don't know exactly what I'm going to do today, but I'll do a little but and we'll re-evaluate it tomorrow and go from there."

Markakis, who last season needed just 24 spring at-bats in returning from offseason abdominal surgery, said he doesn't feel rushed to get a lot of at-bats in order to be ready for the regular season. Markakis has 12 spring at-bats this spring and thinks there are enough opportunities to get enough swings.

"I think the way they have it planned out, I can always go over to the minor league [camp] and get ABs," Markakis said. "I'd like to get into three or four games before and that would put me at around 25 at-bats heading into the season. That's if we don't have any setbacks, and I hope we don't have any."

Also of note:


-- Right-hander Chris Tillman will start Sunday's Grapefruit League game in Bradenton, while left-hander Brian Matusz will pitch in a minor league game at Twin Lakes Park. This will be Tillman's first Grapefruit League outing since March 3 after dealing with abdominal soreness.

-- Today against the Rays, top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop is making his first start since returning from the World Baseball Classic, where he played for the Netherlands. Schoop will start at shortstop. He was a substitute at short in Thursday's 10-inning scoreless tie with Pittsburgh.

-- As the race for the fifth-starter spot continues to progress, Steve Johnson – one of the candidates in the mix – will start today against Tampa Bay. Johnson has allowed three earned runs in nine spring innings and is coming off four shutout innings against the Twins on Sunday.

Here are the starting lineups for this afternoon's 1:05 game at Charlotte Sports Park.

Alexi Casilla 2B
Travon Robinson LF
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Wilson Betemit 1B
Conor Jackson DH
Jason Pridie RF
Taylor Teagarden C
Chris Dickerson CF
Jonathan Schoop SS
Steve Johnson RHP

Sean Rodriguez 2B
Mike Fontenot LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Leslie Anderson RF
Yunel Escobar SS
James Loney 1B
Jose Molina C
Jack Cust DH
Jason Bourgeois CF
Jeff Niemann RHP

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