Markakis: O's team best so far.

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A cleanly shaven Nick Markakis arrived to today’s workout, and was extremely impressive during positional players batting practice. Taking swings with Adam Jones and Felix Pie, Markakis routinely sent ball after ball flying out of the practice field.

Turns out, it was the first time he’s taken batting practice since the season ended.

“He was swinging effortlessly and hitting them into the trees out there,” marveled manager Dave Trembley. “And you wonder how the heck did he do that the first day? Special talent.”

When he was asked whether this was the best Orioles team on paper that he’s been a part of in his five seasons, Markakis agreed.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “The way our young guys have developed last year, you can’t ask for any more than what they did.”

As for his preference to bat second or third in the lineup:

“I don’t really see much difference between the two and three hole besides more opportunity to drive runners in,” Markakis said. “When I’m in the two hole I’m going to have B-Rob [Brian Roberts] hitting in front of me, you know? I got one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, so it doesn’t matter to me regardless.”

Markakis has a .328 lifetime average in the No. 2 hole (586 at-bats), but throughout his career he has predominantly been a No. 3 hitter, averaging .286 over 1354 at-bats.

Trembley wouldn’t divulge his exact lineup plans, and to be honest, I’m not sure if he has one just yet. He will certainly use Spring Training to tinker with the lineup.

“We’re going to have somebody that’s going to hit in front of him and we’re going to hit behind him,” Trembley said of Markakis. “And I think it’s going to make Nick a lot more relaxed. I think he’s going to have a big year.”

Trembley elaborated on yesterday’s comments concerning Kam Mickolio, noting that he’s 12 lbs lighter and saying “he couldn’t run like that last year in Spring Training.”

“I think for what he could bring to us, I would be very, very, very surprised if he doesn’t do what we think he can do,” Trembley said. “I think he can be a guy, but he’s got to show it. We got to see it in the games…I just see a guy with a mindset this spring where I think he knows what’s on the table for him.”

It sounds like Mickolio has a spot in the bullpen so long as he performs well during the Spring Training games. With Mike Gonzalez as the closer, Jim Johnson as setup man, Mark Hendrickson to handle middle relief, and Koji Uehara to serve a myriad of roles, Mickolio seems to be close to a lock for one of the remaining bullpen spots.

Also, if Will Ohman can keep throwing like he did today, he could fill the Orioles’ need for a lefty specialist. During Ohman’s bullpen today, pitching coach Rick Kranitz had to approach him a few times to slow him down.

“He’s going to be a max effort guy and he wants to do very well and make a very good impression, so we are going to have to pull the reins in on him somewhat,” Trembley said. But if he can throw the slider and match up against left-handed hitters and get outs he will be very valuable for us.”
 

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