Inside Pitch- 4/26

So far, Markakis' numbers aren't adding up. O's hope to turn things around vs Boston.

Nick Markakis is cold.

The left-hander with the sweet swing is off to a rough start in 2011, and a number of factors might be to blame.

Markakis is becoming known as a slow starter, and as the Orioles whole offense slumps, his numbers are part of a greater whole.

Because of that group slump, Markakis probably is pressing. In years past, he became the veteran face of the franchise. This year, as the club's No. 2 hitter, he's batting in front of struggling veterans Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero.

Finally, and perhaps the biggest change for Markakis in 2011, the veteran is working with a new hitting instructor. For the first time in his big league career, Markakis is not working with Terry Crowley.

The Orioles shifted Crowley to an advisory role during the offseason and Jim Pressley joined Buck Showalter's staff to work with the hitters.

Markakis has hits in three of his last four games, going 4-for-16 in that stretch. His last extra-base hit was April 14, when he doubled and hit a home run, driving in three runs while going 3-for-5 in a loss to the Yankees. Since then, he's 5-for-36 (.139).

Played out over 162 games, Markakis is on pace to hit 16 doubles and

16 home runs, with 49 RBI.

If nothing else, Orioles fans can look at their steady producer in right field with hope that he will reach his regular season-end numbers, which only means brighter days as 2011 marches along.

NOTES, QUOTES

--SS J.J. Hardy began taking dry cuts Monday in his first baseball activity since straining a muscle in his rib cage earlier this month. Hardy is on the 15-day disabled list, and there's no timetable for his return.

--3B Mark Reynolds was in an 0-for-19 skid over his previous six games before hitting a home run in Sunday's loss to the Yankees. Reynolds' average dipped as low as .177 entering Sunday's game. His average had little impetus to the Orioles' trade for him this winter, after he batted .198 in Arizona last season. The Orioles were homing for some solid power numbers. He's on pace, entering Tuesday, to hit 41 doubles, 16 home runs and drive in 97 runs. They Orioles would take the doubles and RBI, but would probably like to see about twice as many home runs.

--C Matt Wieters has been gaining praise as one of the top defensive catchers in baseball. Most of that has been for his work with the Orioles' rotation. Sunday, though, he showed another aspect -- blocking the plate against Yankees SS Derek Jeter. Manager Buck Showalter said Wieters is one of the game's best at blocking home plate.

--CF Adam Jones has been the biggest disappointment against left-handers among a lineup struggling against left-handed pitching. Jones entered Tuesday's series with Boston batting .188 against southpaws.

--RHP Rick VandenHurk is 1-3 at Class-AAA Norfolk after throwing six solid innings Monday. VandenHurk allowed one run and two hits to improve to 1-3. He's an option to be recalled at some point, but he's not currently on the 40-man roster after being designated for assignment at the end of March.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Errors by the Orioles in Sunday's 11-inning loss to the Yankees

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Yeah, when I threw the pitch and saw what happened, obviously I had no intent to hit him. Then I came back and looked at the video and it didn't look good. -- RHP Josh Rupe, after hitting Yankees C Russell Martin, with what seemed to be an intentional pitch inside.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:

--LHP Brian Matusz (strained left intercostal muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 30. He threw off flat ground in Sarasota, Fla., in mid-April. He is scheduled to throw from a mound April 26 and April 28 before possibly starting a rehab assignment. The Orioles hope to have him back in mid-May.

--SS J.J. Hardy (left oblique strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 10. He began taking dry cuts on April 25, his first baseball activity since straining a muscle in his rib cage earlier this month.

--RHP Chris Jakubauskas (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 17.

--RHP Justin Duchscherer (sore left hip, sore back) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22 and was moved to the 60-day list on April 18. He underwent a medical procedure April 7 to relieve back pain.

ROTATION:

RHP Jeremy Guthrie

RHP Chris Tillman

LHP Zach Britton

RHP Jake Arrieta

BULLPEN:

RHP Kevin Gregg (closer)

RHP Koji Uehara

RHP Jim Johnson

LHP Mike Gonzalez

RHP Jeremy Accardo

RHP Jason Berken

RHP Josh Rupe

LHP Clay Rapada

RHP Brad Bergesen

CATCHERS:

Matt Wieters

Jake Fox

INFIELDERS:

1B Derrek Lee

2B Brian Roberts

SS Robert Andino

3B Mark Reynolds

INF Cesar Izturis

OUTFIELDERS:

LF Luke Scott

CF Adam Jones

RF Nick Markakis

DH Vladimir Guerrero

OF Felix Pie


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