Markakis, Johnson make spring debuts

Markakis, Johnson make spring debuts

SARASOTA, Fla. -- It wasn't a notable performance on either side, but for the Orioles, just getting key players Nick Markakis and Jim Johnson in a Grapefruit League game on Wednesday was encouraging enough.

"It's a good feel for everybody to see them out there," manager Buck Showalter said. "You don't get too involved at this point in the returns, because you knew it will be a process."

Markakis, working his way back from offseason abdominal surgery, served as designated hitter and went 0-for-2 with a fifth-inning walk. But he never got to test out his legs, as the next three batters all recorded outs.

"I would have liked to have run, just to see where I'm at," Markakis said. "I ran the bases a lot prior to this, and, you know, I think I'm where I want to be right now."

Markakis isn't in any pain, and he will take two days off before returning to the lineup at DH on Saturday. The 28-year-old estimated he needs about 20-25 at-bats to be ready for Opening Day on April 6, although Markakis acknowledged hitting isn't as big of an issue as playing the field, which he will do for the first time on Tuesday.

"Yeah, I'd say so," Markakis said, when asked if roaming right field is the biggest hurdle. "[To] get my natural reaction of going side to side and see how I feel. Everything's fine right now, it's just a matter of getting in that situation and testing it."

Johnson, who has been slowed with lower back discomfort, allowed three runs on four hits in the fifth inning and was tagged with the loss in the O's 11-5 defeat. Expected to a strong candidate for the closer spot, Johnson said it's just a matter of getting back his explosiveness on the mound.

"Right now, everything feels fine," he said. "Like I told [pitching coach Rick Adair], I was like, 'It feels like I'm kind of pitching underwater.' Kind of a slow motion. It's not really that fast-twitch stuff yet, but that will come for sure."

Johnson will be reevaluated on Thursday, and depending on how he feels, will take a day or two off before getting in another game.