Markakis "optimistic" about opening day

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis is back in camp today and pain-free after being examined yesterday by spine specialist Dr. Lee Riley at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Markakis is taking a medicine pack for another six days to alleviate the discomfort in his neck caused by a small herniated disc, and is hopeful that he'll be on the field in a week or two.

"He basically told me what was going on and what to expect and that was pretty much it," Markakis said. "It's a slight bulge in my disc between the C4 and C5. Two- to three-week recovery from time of injury. It's already been over a week, so another week or two. Basically, once the medication pack is done, it goes on how I feel."

The Orioles open their season against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 2 at Tropicana Field, and Markakis can't promise that he'll be in the lineup. All he can offer at the present is optimism.

"I'm confident that I'm going to be OK," he said. "Whether I'm there opening day or not, that's on how my body reacts and how I feel. If, say, I were to miss opening day, I don't plan on missing too much time. Maybe a week if necessary. But everything I've heard and talking to the doctors, I should be fine, I should be ready to go for opening day. It's just a matter of getting back in the swing of things, start hitting again, throwing and getting in some games.

"Compared to last year, I've already got some at-bats under my belt and I've already seen pitching, so hopefully it won't take too long."

Markakis was brought along slowly last spring after undergoing abdominal surgery in January. He got 24 at-bats, twice as many as he's accumulated this spring.

"The good thing is I've already seen pitching, I've already got it, not locked in, but I know what to expect," he said. "If I take another week or 10 days off and get a couple days of getting back in the swing of things and get three or four games under my belt at the end of spring, I think I should be good. Like I said, that depends all on how I feel and also how Buck (Showalter) and Dan (Duquette) handle it. They're the ultimate decision-makers and I'm just the one that lets them know how I'm feeling, so it's kind of up to them.

"If it's up to me, I'm pretty optimistic that I'll be out there opening day. It's just a matter of taking it slow and making sure I'm healthy and nothing else goes wrong.

"I was just relieved that I knew what it was. I knew from the beginning. I can tell when something's not right in my body, whether you can play through it or not. It was a pain that was getting better, but it was at a standstill and we didn't know what it was, so they elected to go get an MRI and I'm glad they did, because now we know what's going on.

"Right now, I'm pain-free. I don't have any pain in my neck and my range of motion is pretty good. It's not completely there, but the starting point is getting the pain and inflammation out of there, and I think we're on the right track. I'm pain-free right now and hopefully it continues to go in the right direction."

Also, Chris Tillman continues to improve after being shut down with soreness in his abdomen. He played catch and threw off flat ground yesterday, and is scheduled for a bullpen session or simulated game Thursday. He hasn't been told when he will pitch again.

"I feel good," he said. "I'm going to take it easy today, and depending how I feel tomorrow, I'll probably get up on the mound and give it a go."

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