ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis walked into the visting clubhouse of Tropicana Field on Friday afternoon with his right arm in a sling after succesful morning surgery to remove a broken bone from his wrist.
Markakis tried to force a smile as he made his way to his locker.
"So how was your off day?" shortstop J.J. Hardy joked from the next locker over.
"Are you off the anesthesia enough to talk to people?" Orioles manager Buck Showalter said as he walked by moments later as Markakis spoke with reporters.
For the first time in his major-league career, Markakis — one of the most durable players in the game — has been forced to the disabled list after breaking the hamate bone in his wrist.
Markakis played at least 160 games the past three seasons and has missed just 10 total games over the past five seasons. This spring, Markakis made a steady recovery from offseason abdominal surgery to make the Opening Day lineup.
The procedure — which was performed by nationally renowned hand specialist Dr. Brian Schofield and took just 20 minutes — removed the broken "hook" portion of the bone, which isn't necessary. So the recovery time depends on how quickly he recovers from the swelling and the incision healing.
"All things considered, we'd like for it to be nothing, but compared to what we thought it could be, it was good news," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Doctors say four, Nick says two. If I'm a betting man, [I would say] somewhere in between. Now it's just a matter of the wound healing and the challenge for us is keeping the bat out of his hand."
Markakis said he's targeting a return sometime during the Orioles' nine-game homestand from June 22 to July 1.
"I don't know," he said. "It's hard to tell. I'd like to be back sooner. It's just a waiting game on the wound and getting the stitches out. I go back to the doctor on Monday and he will take off all this gauze and put me in a regular bandage. It's going to be as long as it takes to get these stiches out and pick up a bat again and get in the swing of things.
"There was no structural damage to the rest of my hamate bone, so there's no healing process in there," Markakis added. "When the doc went in there, he said everything looks great in there and no other injuries. It's just a matter of healing up and getting these stitches out."
Markakis said he first injured the bone sometime within the last three weeks — he didn't remember the specific game — while making a slide at second base trying to break up a double play. Markakis said his right hand got caught behind him and he put too much weight on it as he slid. He said he had lingering discomfort in the wrist but nothing that limited him until a swing Tuesday brought a pain he couldn't ignore.
"When I slid [Schofield] thinks I cracked it or did a stress fracture in there so it was bound to happen," Markakis said. "It was eventually going to have to have him take it out anyways. I didn't feel any pain so I continued to play and was able to take full swings and that one swing got me. Didn't limit me in my swing or anything, in [batting practice] everything felt good leading up to the games."
Markakis said he had full feeling throughout his hand after the surgery and that his fingers were sore when he opened his hand.
"I definitely want to be back as quick as possible. This injury's a little disappointing because I know what I had to do in spring training and the beginning of the season all the way up to now to kind of get my strength and get my feet back under me. But the good thing is, I'll still be able to run and I'll be able to lift my legs and I'll still be able to throw. I'll be able to do everything except swing. It's not the worst thing in the world. I'll get through it and I'll get through it as quick as possible."
There are a wide range of recovery times from hamate bone surgery. Dr. Keith Segalman, a hand surgeon at the Curtis National Hand Center in Baltimore who hasn't observed Markakis' injury, said it usually takes about six weeks to recover from hamate bone surgery. However, if there are complications, it can take up to three months.
"I think three or four is a little early," Segalman said. "I mean, he's a tough guy, obviously, he plays professional baseball. But he's still going to be sore when he returns. Taking a bone out, you cut it open, you've got both nerve and artery in the way. It doesn't feel great for a few weeks, let's put it that way.
"For someone who's not a pro athlete, you're in a splint for about a week to 10 days and then your start moving it. And for most people, after six weeks you're pretty much okay. In terms of all your activities, it can take three months, though, if things don't go well. For someone like him, I'd certainly hope he'd be back, that he'd certainly be exercising after the 10 days, I'd hope that he'd be able to be back in the lineup within four to six weeks."
Segalman said the pain from the surgery could linger throughout the season.
"Basically, he'll feel it every time he catches a ball, throws it or takes an at bat, it'll hurt," he said. "So he's going to be spending probably the good portion of the season recovering, but by the fall, he should be in pretty good shape either way. It's just a question of when he's actually going in the lineup and starts playing. But he'll be playing in pain for awhile. I think he's going to feel it. Let's say he's back by July 4, he's still going to be feeling it. He probably won't be as efficient or effective until Labor Day."
Baltimore Sun reporter Connor Letourneau contributed to this article.