Birds House: It’s a good start!

Written by on April 11, 2012 in Orioles, Sports - No comments

Nick Markakis said he would be ready for opening day, and boy was he ever. After offseason stomach surgery, I worried about how soon he could be 100 percent. Well, it looks like he’s somewhere around 110 percent after his stellar opening weekend.

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Nick’s most-excellent weekend kicked off with the presentation of his first Gold Glove award—a prize he has deserved for years, along with catcher Matt Wieters. Then Nick turned into a persistent thorn in the Minnesota Twins’ side for the entire series.

Nick Markakis gave his surgically repaired abs a workout on Opening Day with a homer and a double. (Photo by Shawn Levin)

On Opening Day, Markakis went 2 for 3 with a home run and a triple, three runs batted in and two runs scored as he sparked the O’s to a 4-2 victory. On Saturday he kept up the pace, going 3 for 4 with his second home run as the O’s won 8-2.

He was a bit quieter during Sunday’s 3-1 victory as he went 0 for 2, but he did draw two walks, a good sign.

The surgery Markakis had on his stomach was identical to what Washington Nationals’ third baseman Ryan Zimmerman went through last year. Zimmerman missed quite a bit of time, but Markakis said all along that he would be ready for opening day. After going 4 for 9 with two home runs and four runs batted in, I would say yeah, he’s ready.

If you look closely at Nick’s batting stance this year, you will see that he is a bit more closed off, compared to being more open in years past. I think his power display might have a bit to do with that. When your stance is more open, you might not get your hips into the swing as much, but when you close it off, as Markakis has now, that might generate a bit more torque.

Normally a slow starter (Markakis is a career .272 hitter in April) he is having quite the start to his 2012 campaign. Hopefully for his teammates and fans, he can keep that going all season.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. I guess technically you also only get one chance to make a second impression too, but the first one might be a bit more important. Something also tells me someone passed that memo onto Jason Hammel and Ronny Paulino, as both players made their Oriole debuts this weekend and both had games to remember.

Paulino made his debut first, starting as the designated hitter Saturday night as the Orioles played the Minnesota Twins in their second of three games. The big right handed hitter found himself batting eighth in the lineup, sandwiched between Nick Johnson and Robert Andino. Paulino didn’t disappoint, going 4 for 4 with a double and two runs scored as the Orioles won 8-2.

Paulino looks to get a decent amount of action, especially if he keeps going 4 for 4. But realistically, with Taylor Teagarden on the disabled list with a back injury, Paulino could spell Wieters behind the plate as well as DH.

Hammel also made his debut over the weekend, as he started the final game of the Minnesota series, and did he ever make an impression. Hammel took a no hitter into the eighth inning before giving up a double to Justin Morneau, and then held on to finish out the inning. Baltimore went on to win 3-1.

All in all, Hammel pitched eight innings and allowed only one earned run on two hits and three walks.

Hammel also struck out five batters. One impressive stat was that Hammel threw 97 pitches, 60 of which were strikes.

Hammel came over in the Jeremy Guthrie trade with some big shoes to fill. So far, he has done just that.

As for troubled lefty Brian Matusz, and his ineffective start in the O’s 6-2 loss to the Yankees Monday night, that’s a subject for another day.


by Andy Mindzak

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