The Baltimore Orioles lineup received a scare Monday when it was announced that veteran outfielder Nick Markakis is scheduled to have an MRI on his ailing neck.
The story was first reported by The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly.
MASN.com’s Roch Kubatko confirmed that that MRI had been scheduled.
The 29-year-old Markakis was one of the most durable players in baseball earlier in his career. He missed just a total of 26 games in his first six major league seasons. However, he was able to play in just 104 games last year because of an assortment of injuries.
Kubatko wrote how the left-handed hitter endured three surgeries in 2012—on his abdomen, his right wrist to remove the hamate bone and a procedure on a broken thumb.
Markakis hasn’t played in a game since March 1 because of neck spasms that have been bothering him off and on and has only made four appearances all spring, producing three singles and an RBI in 12 at-bats.
According to an Associated Press article on the Boston Herald website, Markakis explained that the MRI was “probably more of a precaution to see what's going on in there and identify exactly what it is that's bothering me."
Markakis told MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli that he’s hopeful the injury isn’t serious: "I can't pinpoint exactly what it was because I didn't feel anything [right away]. I thought about what it could be. Maybe dehydration and working out and straining a muscle, or even sleeping on it or something along those lines, but I don't know."
Losing Markakis for any length of time would be a major blow to the Orioles, as they expect him to be their starting right fielder and a linchpin of their offense.
He is a career .295 hitter with 117 home runs and 549 RBI in seven seasons with Baltimore. He’s also considered a solid defensive player, having won a Gold Glove in 2011.
Even with the injuries, he still managed to hit .298 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI last year.
If Markakis is unable to start this season, his likely replacements include Nolan Reimold and Chris Davis, who are better known for their bats than their gloves.
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark conducted an informal poll of MLB executives this offseason, which named the Orioles as one of the least-improved teams in 2013. Coming off a 93-win season and wild-card berth last year, the team will have a lot more pressure to succeed than it's had in recent years. An extended absence from Markakis would not help that cause.
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter told Kubatko that the team plans to be cautious in handling Markakis’ injury:
I'm not going to downplay it. We'll see. When you get something that has kind of cropped up twice, information is a good thing. Until you get all the information...so we'll see.
I haven't been told anything to make me think there's a sense of urgency with that. I asked Nick about it and he goes, "Whatever." We'll see...
Until the results are known, Markakis and the Orioles will cross their fingers and hope for the best.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference