March 11, 2013
Nick Markakis has not played since March 3 and is coming off an injury-plagued 2012 season.

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) -- Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis is scheduled to have an MRI Monday afternoon and hopes the neck spasms that he has been coping with since March 3 aren't anything serious.

Markakis was taken out of the lineup on March 3 and hasn't played since. He had three surgeries in 2012 and missed the Orioles' first postseason appearance in 15 years with a broken thumb.

He said Sunday he thinks the MRI is "probably more of a precaution to see what's going on in there and identify exactly what it is that's bothering me."

For the previous five seasons, Markakis averaged 160 games. Baltimore is coming off its first winning season since Markakis arrived in 2006 and many Orioles say with him back, the team will be much better.

"It's a compliment. They were pretty good without me last year," Markakis said. "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. We've got depth."

Markakis had abdominal surgery in Jan. 2012 which slowed him in spring training last year, a broken bone in his right hand that required another procedure in June, and a broken left thumb when New York's CC Sabathia drilled him with a pitch in September.

That was the most painful injury. His season over, Markakis and Brian Roberts both traveled with the team during the postseason, though he claimed he could have played had the team reached the World Series.

"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," Markakis said.

"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."

After Markakis missed six weeks with the hand surgery, manager Buck Showalter inserted him in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career. His rationale was that Baltimore's offense was lagging, Markakis had a high on-base percentage - and that it would help him make him some lost at-bats.

The team did well with Markakis batting first. After his broken thumb, Nate McLouth moved there, and the Orioles continued to thrive. He didn't change his approach to hitting - whether it's third, second - or first.

"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," Markakis said.

One of the biggest complaints of the team's fans over the winter was that the team didn't add enough to its 93-win team of 2012. Markakis disagrees.

"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 (Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette) and Buck were coming from," Markakis said. "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," he said. "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."

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