SARASOTA, Fla. – It was the second straight incomplete spring training for Nick Markakis. That’s O.K, with him.
Markakis missed more than three weeks when he had a small herniated disc in his neck, but he feels fine now. Last year, he had a shortened spring training because of January abdominal surgery.
It was the first of three surgeries. In June, he had surgery for a broken hamate bone in his right hand, and then one to repair his broken left thumb in September.
Even without Markakis, the team was good enough to make it to the American League Divisional Series, and some felt with Markakis, they would have beaten the Yankees. All spring, his teammates have been saying that the team will be better with Markakis back.
“It’s a compliment. They were pretty good without me last year. To be part of it and a contributor is going to be fun and exciting. It’s hard to say if one person can impact the whole lineup. They can, but we’ve had great guys filling in last year and we’ve got great guys this year,” Markakis said.
“We’ve got depth, and I think they covered their butts on them signing some guys who can step in.”
After six losing years, Markakis could only be a spectator during the playoffs.
““I’ve been waiting a long time. Every person in this clubhouse is competitive, and they want to win. When you get there and get it taken away from you, it’s tough. There’s always another chance.
“That’s the good thing about baseball. We go out there and play every day. It’s a long season. To get to where you want to go, it’s tough. It’s tough when you’re there and you can’t participate. That’s our goal this year. If you ask anybody in this clubhouse, they’d say the same thing.”
When manager Buck Showalter moved Markakis to leadoff, the team improved markedly. He probably will hit there again this season.
“To me, there’s been slight adjustments in approaching in different parts of the lineup. Overall, I think I want to be more aggressive and stick with the approach I had last year in the leadoff spot. It worked out good for me. Just going to continue with that approach and see where it takes me. If I need to make adjustments, I make adjustments.”
Showalter arrived in Aug. 2010, and Markakis immediately noticed the difference, both in Baltimore and Sarasota, where he has a spring training home.
“I feel like we’re a big league team now,” Markakis said.
“We’re in a big league facility, starting with the weight room, the clubhouse. In the past, it was, I don’t know how to put it, it was, you were in the big leagues, but you were looking over your back. It was kind of like minor league-oriented. With Buck coming in, he understands what we go through 162 games. He treats us like big league ballplayers. He expects us to act like it.
“It’s definitely come a long ways. I’m happy where it has. That’s one thing that I saw when I had the opportunity to sign long-term. I saw the turn in the organization. I knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time. Here we are, and it looks like a lot of guys made some good choices.”
Over the winter the team was criticized for not doing much. Markakis thinks the criticism of Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is unfair.
“‘Every team has holes. Why fix it if it ain’t broke? We’ve got a young team, a lot of good young players, guys coming up. I can understand where Dan and Buck were coming from. We’ve have a good lineup, and what our pitching staff did last year, they added depth to it. They just continue to make the pitching staff deep. That’s what it takes, pitching and defense,
“Our offense is just as good as anybody’s offense. You can understand what they’re coming from, and what they’re seeing, and what they’re looking at. As players, we’ve got to go out there and do our thing and make them look good.”