Markakis cleared for baseball activities (and more from Showalter)

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis has been cleared to begin baseball activities after consulting earlier today with spine specialist Dr. Lee Riley.

Markakis will hit off a tee and do some light throwing on Friday at the Ed Smith Stadium complex as part of a three- to four-day offensive progression that will lead to his first games since March 1.

Manager Buck Showalter figured that Markakis could play a week's worth of games in two days.

"Trust me, he is Twin Lakes bound," Showalter said. "He's going to be going around to four fields leading off for everybody.

"We want to make sure physically he can stand up to that many at-bats that quick."

Markakis will hit off a tee, soft toss and coaches batting practice before playing in games.

"He's been feeling normal for two or three days now," Showalter said.

Showalter labeled Jake Arrieta's start tonight as "pretty good."

"He was having a little trouble out of the windup," Showalter said. "Four of the six hits he gave up were out of the windup. Eight of the nine strikeouts were out of the stretch. Rick (Adair) was telling us that 45 of 57 pitches out of the stretch were strikes, so if we can get that out of the windup, we've got a pretty solid outing.

"He had good, crisp stuff. He would have probably been able to go seven (innings), so that's deep in the game. It was better. I'd like to see him get a little sharper out of the windup. He was a different pitcher out of the stretch, a lot more compact. But the breaking ball, everything was working. He had all the pitches. He didn't throw many changeups. I thought the slider was pretty good, too, and, of course, the curveball."

Has Arrieta shown enough to make the team?

"He's shown me enough to continue to be in the competition," Showalter replied. "Did you really think I was going to give that up?"

Nope.

"We're at least a week away before you all get anything out of me," Showalter said. "You can't wear me out."

Earlier today, the Orioles optioned infielder Danny Valencia to Triple-A Norfolk.

"A lot of pop, a lot of potential," Showalter said. "He's 28 and right now the plans are for him to get at-bats consistently in Triple-A as a third baseman, first baseman, DH. He could even play the outfield, though it's going to be pretty crowded. I think he's got a chance to be an option for us. I like, if he goes down with the right attitude, what he might be able to do down in Norfolk to really be a potential impact guy for us as the season goes on, and it could be quick."

Tommy Hunter didn't pitch tonight because Showalter stretched out Luis Ayala and Troy Patton to two innings, so he will throw three or four innings on Friday at Twin Lakes Park. Jason Hammel will join him at the minor league complex.

"That was the plan when we left the dugout tonight," Showalter said.

The Orioles could make a few more cuts on Friday. They held a 90-minute meeting earlier today to go over the roster.

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