Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis optimistic he will be ready for Opening Day

SARASOTA, Fla. -- After seeing a spine specialist in Baltimore on Tuesday, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis remains optimistic he will be recovered from a herniated disk in his neck in time to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day.

Markakis saw Johns Hopkins spine specialist Dr. Lee Riley on the team's off day and returned to Sarasota on Wednesday. He said he’s currently pain-free and his range of motion is returning. Markakis was scratched from the starting lineup March 1 after he woke up unable to move his neck. He has done no baseball activities since.

“There’s a 2 to 3 week recovery from the time of injury, so it’s already been a week, so another week or two,” Markakis said. “I’m on a medication pack right now for the next six days and basically once the medication pack is done it basically goes on how I feel.

“It’s not completely there, but the starting point is getting the pain and inflammation out of there and I think we’re on the right track. I’m pain-free right now and hopefully it continues to go in the right direction.”

Markakis said he doesn’t believe he will need many more at-bats to get ready for the season. He already has 12 at-bats this spring and needed just 24 at-bats last spring in recovering from offseason abdominal surgery.

“I’m confident I’m going to be OK,” Markakis said. “Whether I’m there Opening Day or not, that [depends] just on how my body reacts and how I feel. If say I were to miss Opening Day, I don’t plan on missing too much time, maybe a week if necessary. But everything I’ve heard in talking to the doctors, I should be fine. I should be ready to go for Opening Day.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he’s not handicapping when Markakis will return, but he said Markakis’ total number of plate appearances isn’t a concern.

One thing’s for sure, Showalter will ease Markakis back into game situations.

“I don't see him [in a game] in the next week. Once he's able to go back on the field, it won't just be right into a game,” Showalter said. “When he's able to resume baseball activities and when he's able to play in a game is probably two different things.”

Markakis, who played in at least 160 games four times in a five-year stretch from 2007 to 2011, missed 48 games last season and underwent three surgeries during the 2012 calendar year — on his abdomen, right wrist and left thumb.

But he's hopeful he will be able in the lineup when the Orioles open the season April 2 at Tampa Bay.

“It’s [also] all on how I feel and also how Buck and Dan handle it,” Markakis said. “They’re the ultimate decision makers. I’m just the one who lets them know how I’m feeling, so it’s kind of up to them and if it’s up to me I’m pretty optimistic I’ll be out there on Opening Day. It’s just a matter or taking it slow and making sure I’m healthy and nothing else goes wrong.”

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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