What's next for Markakis?

CHICAGO - Nick Markakis collected five hits in his first seven at-bats, with a triple, two homers and four RBIs, and the baseball world excitedly proclaimed that he was completely recovered from his abdominal surgery and the worried masses could exhale and relax.

Markakis is mired in a 3-for-35 slump, and it might be time to inhale and stress.

That's probably an overreaction. Markakis wasn't going to maintain his early pace and he isn't going to keep going 0-fer, as he did again last night in four trips to the plate.

Markakis' average is down to .190, but he doesn't appear to have any restrictions related to his health. He's swinging the bat freely and diving in the outfield and at home plate.

The question is whether Markakis should continue to bat third. He's been wedged between J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones. Does he move up or down? Does he stay in the same slot while the Orioles are winning?

Markakis is a career .313/.384/.489 hitter in 296 games in the second slot. Manager Buck Showalter could flip-flop Markakis and Hardy. Just ignore the small sample size with Hardy batting third - .209/.277/.302 in 11 games.

What about Matt Wieters moving up to third, where he's a career .263/.330/.413 hitter in 20 games? Hardy could drop down in the order. Or keep Hardy second and lower Markakis.

Is it too soon to tamper?

Markakis is 1-for-2 lifetime against Jake Peavy, who starts tonight for the White Sox. Now that's a small sample size.

Mark Reynolds is 2-for-14 with eight strikeouts. Wilson Betemit is 4-for-19, but all four hits are doubles. Hardy is 1-for-11 with a double.

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