I can’t imagine that too many players were happier to see the ball drop on New Year’s Eve than Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, who needed a fresh start after 2012. And his luck must be changing because it didn’t smash his toe.
The Orioles finally posted a winning record and made the playoffs, which brought great joy to Markakis. But he underwent three surgeries - the first in January, the last in September - which was quite an oddity for a guy who played in 161, 157, 161, 160 and 160 games the previous five seasons.
Markakis was shut down after Sept. 8 because of a fractured left thumb. He would have been ready for the World Series if the Orioles advanced that far, but the Yankees eliminated them in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.
Asked about his thumb last night on “Hot Stove Baseball” on WBAL Radio, Markakis replied, “I’m good to go. I’ve had no setbacks. My thumb feels good. Everything couldn’t have gone better.
“I was happy with all three of my surgeries this year. Not happy in a good way, but happy they were done the right way and the doctors took care of me. I was fortunate the previous three years to be in (right) field every day. If I was going to get injuries, I may as well knock them out in one year instead of having nagging injuries for several years.
“All in all, I’m good to go. I’ve got my workouts going and I’m just excited to get down there.”
Markakis described his inability to contribute after Sept. 8 as “a dagger in the heart, but that’s the cards I was dealt.”
“It’s one of those things and you’ve got to deal with it,” he said. “Even though I wasn’t able to do anything in the field, I still had a blast with the guys and the fans and the city. It was a special year. Just to be a part of it and be there and actually experience it, that was satisfactory for me. I was happy for the guys, happy for the team, happy for everyone involved with the team, including the fans. It was awesome to see that back in Baltimore.”
One of the lasting images for me was Markakis, his left hand wrapped in plastic, spraying champagne in every direction in the visiting clubhouse in Texas after the wild card game. He broke into the majors in 2006 and suffered through six straight losing seasons. He earned the right to go a little crazy.
“It was a blast,” he said. “It was a roller-coaster ride. You play 162 games to have one, two, three or four special moments in a locker room with the team. I was just happy to be there and be part of it. Hopefully, this year we’ll build on that and we’ll be able to do a couple more of those.
“The big thing is to have fun with it. It’s a great group of guys. Everybody is on the same page, and when you’re on the same page and you put things together and start to win ballgames, it’s rewarding.”
The 2013 version of the Orioles is going to look a lot like the 2012 model that won 93 games. Executive vice president Dan Duquette continues his search for a veteran starter and another hitter, but at this point, not much has changed with the roster.
“It’s that old saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Markakis said. “We’re going to have that same group of guys. We have a young team and we’re going to be playing together for a while, hopefully.
“Every team has holes. There are a few holes to fix here and there. Everybody’s got them, and what better guys to be in charge than Buck (Showalter) and Dan. The job they do is overlooked sometimes. You really appreciate as players what they do for us and for the fans and everything.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll add depth like we always do and go into battle with what we have, and where we are at the end of the year, it is what it is.”