Will Markakis return to the norm in 2014?

One of the strange sights from the 2013 season was watching Nick Markakis, a player that hit 43 doubles or more four straight seasons from 2007-2010, turn into a singles hitter.

Markakis finished with 24 doubles last season, but, after the All-Star break, he hit just six doubles and two homers in 253 at-bats, posting a slugging percentage of just .300 and OPS of .622. Markakis hit seven homers in April and May and just three in 105 games after that.

During the 2012 season Markakis missed time due to a broken hamate bone in his right wrist and his season ended in early September when he took a CC Sabathia fastball off of his left thumb.

Some feel the hand and wrist injuries kept him from his usual workout routine before the 2013 season and it all led to him wearing down somewhat as the year went on.

Markakis never blamed health, his preseason workout routine or anything really for his subpar 2013 season, one where he posted career lows in average (.271), OBP (.329), slugging (.356) and OPS (.685).

But during the Winter Meetings, when asked what it would take for Markakis to have his normal-type season in 2014, manager Buck Showalter said it was pretty simple.

"I think staying healthy," Showalter said. "Nick is not one of those guys that broadcasts, as my mom used to say, he enjoys ill health. You get some people once you know everything is wrong with them, Nick is not one of those guys. Probably half the things we don't even know. Somebody told me the other day that he's about as good as he's felt and looked in a long time. We'll see. I think most of it is going to be health.

"Through the years guys with his approach and makeup, you're making a big mistake counting them out. I think he was setting us up for...is he in line for comeback player of the year? How do you get into that category when you're a candidate?"

The Orioles don't need him to win any awards, just produce something around his usual career numbers of a .292 average, .360 OBP and .801 OPS.

Markakis potentially could be entering his last season with the club in 2014, a year where he will be paid $15 million. The Orioles hold an option on his 2015 contract at $17.5 million with a $2 million buyout.

It would take some exceptional season this year for the club to want to pick up that option. The O's would happily settle for a return to the norm for Markakis in 2014, and they'll worry about 2015 later.


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