Markakis stronger, motivated headed into 2014

SARASOTA, Fla. — Twice a week, hours before the Orioles have to be at the Ed Smith Stadium complex for team stretch, a bulked up Nick Markakis is at Pilates. Baltimore’s longtime right fielder started the regimen last year during the baseball season, but he got really intense about it — among other things — this winter and is now a regular at 6 a.m. ET class, which he upped to three times a week starting Monday.

The focus is on core strength and balance, two key components of an offseason like Markakis has never had before, one that had him pounding the pavement of his driveway with teammate Ryan Flaherty for workouts just two weeks after the Orioles’ season had ended and weighing in 16 pounds heavier this spring.

Coming off the worst season of his career, Markakis is confident he has never been this strong, not even close. The 30-year-old, who was an American League Gold Glove finalist despite his struggles at the plate, is well aware that this is a contract year, with a looming $17.5 million 2015 club option that, if declined, would make Markakis a free agent for the first time in his career.

Yet all Markakis, who was sidelined during the Orioles’ 2012 playoff run after a CC Sabathia pitch ended his season, wants from his offseason regime is to be able to stay on the field.

“I’m at the point in my career where a lot of things don’t matter to me right now besides winning the World Series with this group of guys and this team right now,” said Markakis, who would get a $2 million buyout if the Orioles don’t pick up his option at season’s end. “Because I don’t know what the future holds for me, this could be my last year in an Orioles uniform. And I’d rather win a World Series, bring a World Series to Baltimore and this organization. I don’t want to do it anywhere else. This is the team I came up with, this is the team that pretty much raised me. This is my family.”

The grizzled veteran is determined to come back strong. After three surgeries in nine months between 2012-13, he was slowed with a neck injury during Spring Training last year. However, he went on to play 160 games, the fourth time in the past five seasons he’s hit the 160-game mark. Talk to any player in any Major League clubhouse about what kind of grit that takes and their expression says all you need to know.

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Unless Nick has a Chris Davis like year you can bet the farm he’s getting the 2 mil buyout. A healthy Nick can receive a 4-5 year contract of about 8 mil+ from a team with the need of an outfielder and clubhouse veteran presence.

I agree, John. Will be interesting to see how he does this year. –Britt

Maybe Markaikis is what his lifetime stats are showing. .292 lifetime ba, 16 homeruns and 76 rbi’s average going into ninth season. Those stats certainly don’t make him worthy of a big contract. And he has regressed year by year. If he is the leadoff, a .292 average would suffice. Lets just see how it plays out.

Nice, detailed piece, Brit. Loved the Nick/Flaherty connections. Said the same under the MLB comments, but you know… Always enjoy your writing!

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