Hearing from Showalter, Schoop, Clevenger, Hunter, Meek and Davis (with update)

Nick Markakis has started in right field for the Orioles on seven consecutive opening days. Whether he makes it eight in a row is up in the air.

That's also where Markakis developed neck stiffness, while on a flight yesterday from Sarasota to Norfolk.

"Still a little sore," said manager Buck Showalter. "Hopefully, it will get better. I've got two lineups, one with him in it and one without him in it. There's some thought about letting him get the benefit of another day with it, but I think we'll have our arms around it by the end of the day.

"I was hoping it would manage a little bit better overnight than it did, but it's a lot better. It's much better. We'll see if it's enough to play tomorrow.

"Spasms or whatever. It's loosening up little by little. Anybody who has it knows exactly what I'm talking about. He was fine when he got on the plane. We'll see"

Jonathan Schoop is expected to be in whichever lineup Showalter chooses against Boston left-hander Jon Lester.

"This is going to be my first time and I'm trying to keep it simple," Schoop said. "I think it's going to be exciting because it's opening day and we'll see tomorrow how it goes."

Schoop would be the first Orioles rookie to start on opening day since shortstop Luis Hernandez in 2008.

Showalter Post Workout.jpg"I like the way he's engaged defensively," Showalter said. "I think our whole organization, everybody knows that it's important.

"Jonathan has been engaged and has continued to grow as a defender. There's a process with all young player's development."

Schoop went 15-for-39 this spring, with five doubles, two homers and eight RBIs.

"We'll see if Jonathan needs to go back and learn from what he's been exposed to last fall and this year," Showalter said. "This is a part of the process, and this is where the process has led him right now.

"He's excited, and that makes me excited. I think he gets great confidence in the confidence we have in him."

Steve Clevenger won't have to cut school to attend opening day at Camden Yards. The Pigtown native and Mount Saint Joseph grad is the backup catcher.

"It's a dream come true. I get to play for my hometown team, a team I grew up rooting for. It's a special time," he said.

"Opening day to me was a big thing. I grew up a couple blocks from here, so I was always coming down to the stadium. I always made it to opening day until I started getting a little bit older. When I was younger, I always missed school.

"It's exciting to be from Baltimore and run down the orange carpet on opening day, but it's a long season and that's what I'm concentrating on.

Clevenger made two opening day rosters with the Cubs.

"It doesn't get old," he said.

He won't be able to fulfill every ticket request on Monday.

"There's a lot," he said, "but I'm only going to have four to give out, so we'll see."

Has Tommy Hunter been told that he's the closer?

"No," he said.

Does he want to hear it?

"No," he said, grinning.

"I mean, it's going to play itself out. Somebody's going to find out who's getting run out there in the ninth inning. Tomorrow, actually. Probably. Hopefully. We're going to go out and play baseball. Just get the ball and throw when you get it."

Roles don't often get defined here. They just evolve.

"I don't see him doing that. I've never seen him do that," Hunter said. "Guys fall into place where he uses them. I don't think he uses any specific words with, like, 'You're this guy, you're that guy.' I think it's just assumed after a while who's who. I guess we'll wait and see.

"I think we'll figure them out pretty quick. Buck's pretty good at getting the guys in there when he wants them to get in there and who he wants to get in a certain times. We'll figure it out. Like I said, if that's the case, it's the case, and get the ball and go.

"However it is that I've got to get my outs, I'm going to get my outs. And whenever he gives me the ball, I'm going to try to get as many as I can for as long as I can. I would like to be there, but I prepare myself to be in the bullpen and that's where I am, so I think we'll all find out soon enough."

Evan Meek, an All-Star in 2010 whose career stalled due to a SLAP tear in his right shoulder, found out before yesterday's game in Norfolk that he earned the final bullpen spot.

"We got done playing catch and we were all signing some autographs for all the fans there, and I was told that Buck wanted to see me," he said. "I went in and he told me that I made the club. I watched the game and now we're here.

"It was pretty fantastic news. It was a sigh of relief. I'm sure everyone in this room has been in the situation where they didn't know and it came down to the last minute, so there's some stress there. Just because you're trying to plan your season and where you're going to be. Your family's wondering where they're going to be.

"Obviously, everybody wants to be a part of what's going on here, so to find out you made the team, I don't think I have words to describe that feeling, considering the journey of being here and the story of the off-season and all that stuff."

The Orioles still aren't getting much respect nationally, which bothers no one in the clubhouse. It actually can be a useful tool.

"I think it can be," said first baseman Chris Davis. "There's all sorts of teams out there that nobody is picking to win, but I think in our situation, the last couple years we've had, we've been successful. Obviously, not as successful last year as we'd like to have been, but we know we have a good group in here. And to be honest with you, we don't care what anybody else thinks. We'll let our playing do the talking for us and hopefully at the end of the season we'll be in position to either win the division or make the postseason."

Said Showalter: "One of the things I love about baseball is it's just going to show up, whether you're good or not good. And you've got nothing to say at the end. You had every opportunity. Nobody wants to hear about injuries or challenges. It's what we do. It's what makes this sport popular. People can talk and write about it and project stuff. People like to do that.

"I just want us to be as good as we're capable of being. And our guys get it. Our core group approaches things the way they're supposed to be approached, and it makes it easy on me."

Update: Injured third baseman Manny Machado will return to Sarasota on Tuesday to continue his rehabilitation. Outfielder Francisco Peguero, who was placed on the disabled list with right wrist tendinitis, will have the cast removed from his right wrist on Wednesday.

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