Notes: Markakis hopes to contribute

Notes: Markakis hopes to contribute

TORONTO -- Nobody expected these numbers. When Nick Markakis made the Orioles' roster out of Spring Training, he was supposed to be an adequate player from Day 1 and a cornerstone fixture going forward. The latter hope remains intact, but Baltimore's top prospect has struggled in his first 10 weeks in the big leagues, batting just .221 with two home runs.

"It's tough up here. I'm seeing guys I've never seen before and trying to make adjustments to them," Markakis said Wednesday, one night after going 0-for-3 against Toronto's Roy Halladay. "It's like last night's game. It's not easy when you've got the [former] Cy Young winner out there and he's throwing as good as he wants to throw.

"It's a learning experience up here. You've got to learn and make the adjustments."

Ever since Spring Training, Markakis has been one of the team's most enduring subplots. The outfielder spurred an early promotion by batting .358 and ranking among the team leaders in on-base percentage (.443) and slugging (.522) during the exhibition season. That caused the team's decision-makers to reevaluate his standing within the organization.

Prior to that offensive explosion, Markakis seemed ticketed for some more Minor League experience. The former first-round draft pick has a .301 career average in the Minor Leagues and a .339 mark at Double-A, but he only spent 33 games competing against upper-level pitchers. Now, he's trying to learn against the best of the best.

"I'm trying to be a little more aggressive, but at the same time, I'm trying to get the feel for some pitchers," he said. "It's tough. It's a learning experience, and it's only going to get better. I'm looking forward to the rest of this season and the second half."

And now, with an injury to regular right fielder Jay Gibbons, Markakis has to stay with the parent club and help fill in the gaps. Baltimore can't send him down for more seasoning -- largely because he's the team's best defensive right fielder. The offensive cupboard is nearly bare in the upper levels of the organization, which all but ties the O's to Markakis.

"We're constantly going over that," said Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo, speaking about Markakis. "We've been hurt a lot with injuries and we've had to bring up most of our replacements already, so it's very difficult. We're sitting here still trying to win, and he may just be our [best] player to win right now. We'll keep monitoring it and working with him."

Markakis batted .182 in April, .254 in May and is currently mired with a .229 mark in June. Those are extreme numbers, but the 22-year-old said he's been a slow starter at virtually every level. He also said that his confidence remains intact and that he just wants to keep working and keep progressing as a big-league batter.

"The beginning of the season of all my years, I've struggled pretty much until the All-Star break. After the All-Star break, I get the feel of things, see the pitching a little bit more," he said. "It's basically the same thing. [And] if I was going to go down, I could be struggling at that level. I'm going to take it day-by-day, work hard and try to help any way I can."

He's back: The Orioles sent Gibbons to the disabled list Wednesday and recalled utilityman Ed Rogers, who left just two days earlier, when Gibbons was activated from the DL. That's the second time Rogers has left the team with some odd timing. Last time, he swapped spots with Hayden Penn, who promptly came down with appendicitis.

"We've decided not to send Eddie Rogers [down] again," joked Perlozzo. "We're signing him to a long-term contract. Guaranteed, every time we send him, something happens."

Rogers will likely be with the team for the foreseeable future, because Gibbons is likely out another three weeks and the Orioles need some extra position players to finish out their schedule in Interleague Play. Baltimore heads to New York's Shea Stadium next, where fresh legs will help the team more than an emergency catcher.

That's why Rogers was tabbed instead of Raul Chavez, who may rejoin the parent club sometime in late June. The Orioles are currently playing with a 13-man pitching staff, which Perlozzo said will likely change in the next few days.

"We're working on trying to sort some things out to see if that can happen," he said. "It's going to be a utility guy or an outfielder, I'd guess. I don't know if there is another infielder there. I just told them, 'Get me one.' They have to be usable for something for me -- defense, pinch-hitting. There's got to be somebody."

False starts: That's not the only thing up in the air for the series against the Mets. Perlozzo is still scrambling to decide his starter for Sunday, which could be Adam Loewen or could be someone else currently on the staff. Loewen has pitched against three Cy Young winners in his first three starts and could get a fourth if he pitches Sunday.

Tom Glavine is scheduled for the Mets, but Perlozzo isn't sure whether he wants Loewen's learning experience to continue.

"We're learning towards it. We haven't made a final [decision]," he said. "We're trying to sort out a few other things that may change some things. Nothing's really solid right now."

Quotable: "We need to go more than five and six [innings], pretty much. I appreciate the shutouts but I have four more innings to cover. He's getting better. We look for him to get over the hump." -- Perlozzo on Daniel Cabrera, who hasn't allowed an earned run in either of his last two starts

Coming up: The Orioles and Blue Jays will play a matinee series finale Thursday at 12:37 p.m. ET, a game that pits Daniel Cabrera against Toronto's Ted Lilly. Cabrera has won two straight starts since returning from the disabled list.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.