Showalter hopes to avoid using Markakis at first again

Orioles manager

Buck Showalter


actually thought

Nick Markakis


looked halfway decent at first base when Baltimore's regular right fielder was asked to play there in a pinch during the team's final game against the Seattle Mariners. Showalter would prefer, however, to never see it happen again.

"He enjoyed it, I can tell you that," Showalter said. "I think we all know if he played there every four or five days, he'd be above average. I thought he did a good job. He made a couple plays I've seen some first basemen not make. But Nick's our right fielder and that's where he's going to play."

Showalter made the surprise move because he felt like he needed to give

Vladimir Guerrero


a day off and

Luke Scott

a turn as a designated hitter. With

Derrek Lee

on the disabled list and

Jake Fox

getting designated for assignment, Showalter had no other options. And while he doesn't anticipate being in that situation again, Showalter said it could give the Orioles some flexibility during interleague games, especially if double switches come to play.

"I'm hoping it's the only situation that presents itself like that this year, but don't tell Nick that," Showalter said. "If I had to, I could [go back to it]. You never know what's going to happen in interleague play when you're trying to double switch or move some guys around. It doesn't hurt to have another guy who can play somewhere else."

Showalter said he's still not concerned about Markakis' hitting slump — he entered Friday's game hitting just .244 with a .629 OPS, numbers well below his career averages — but he can't diagnose why the Orioles right fielder hasn't found his stroke yet.

"I think it's been frustrating for him," Showalter said. "A day or two will go and you'll think he's on his way. But then he has a couple that frustrate him. I look at every day as something that's closer to what Nick has spoiled us with for a long time. I know the work he's put in is outstanding. It's obviously not a case of not wanting it. He's a tinkerer. And so sometimes it's pitch to pitch, and at-bat to at-bat and game to game. Once he gets it going, he's going to stay locked in for a very long time. ... Sometimes he's just trying to get four hits in one at-bat. And it's got to be a double or a home run. That's not a good mindset to be in. I think he's fighting it because he wants to make a contribution so much."

Pitchers take to the plate

The Orioles pitchers took their first day of batting practice on Friday, in preparation for next week's interleague games against the Washington Nationals. Showalter said if he had to pick, he'd probably tab

Chris Jakubauskas

as the best hitter of the bunch.

"They're all excited about it," Showalter said. "It's the earliest I've seen them here. We had a meeting this morning to talk about it."

A more pressing interleague concern is what the Orioles are going to do with Guerrero when they can't use him as a designated hitter. Do they play him in the field, bad knees and all? Or do they weaken their already weak offense by keeping him out of the lineup?

"I've given a lot of thought to it, but I'm not giving it up [to the media]," Showalter joked. "I talked to [Texas Rangers manager]

Ron Washington

during the offseason and during spring training, and we talked about different things with Vladdy. That was one of the things I asked him. He gave me some good input. I haven't made up my mind yet, if I'm being completely honest."

Lee starts strong in Bowie

Lee served as the designated hitter and batted leadoff Friday for the Double-A Bowie Baysox, and had two hits in his first three at-bats.

Lee was hitting leadoff because the organization is trying to get him as many at-bats as possible.

"I would bet he'll be the biggest leadoff hitter in the Eastern League," Showalter joked.

Showalter said he's still not sure when Lee will return to the major league club as he rehabs his injured oblique, but that he and Lee plan to talk on the phone after each game to gauge how he's feeling. Showalter added that he doesn't feel like Lee needs to play first base in the minors before he returns to the Orioles, but he likely will end up playing there anyway at some point. Lee is also going to miss time late next week to attend his grandfather's funeral in Sacramento.

Fox on the block?

Andy MacPhail

, the Orioles president of baseball operations, told The Sun he's hopeful he can work out a trade to send Jake Fox to another team, but said it could take the full 10 days allotted from his designation on Wednesday. Showalter said he hasn't heard anything currently in the works.

"It may go right down to the end," Showalter said. "I know Andy has had some conversations in the last week or so. But I have not heard anything that would lead me to believe that someone has expressed interest enough to make a deal right now. But that can change in the next eight days."

Around the horn:

Justin Duchscherer

pitched four innings of an extended spring training game on Friday, and the Orioles thought it went well, even though he was struck in the stomach by a line drive at one point. ... Friday marked the 1-year anniversary of

Dave Trembley

's firing. ... Ravens safety

Ed Reed

threw out the first pitch Friday night , and was greeted by a shower of cheers. Wearing an Orioles jersey with his name on it, he delivered strike to

Adam Jones