Markakis optimistic he'll be ready for Opening Day

Markakis optimistic he'll be ready for Opening Day

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Nick Markakis, who has a small herniated disk, will be sidelined at least another seven to 10 days and remains optimistic that he will be ready when the regular season starts next month.

Markakis underwent an MRI exam in Florida on Monday and flew back to Baltimore on Tuesday to see spine specialist Dr. Lee Riley, who said the outfielder needs two to three weeks of rest and medication to let the inflammation and pain subside.

"It's already been a week, so we will see where we are at in seven to 10 days," Markakis said. "But he also told me it could be eight to 12 weeks before I'm completely symptom free. We're looking on the positive side. We are going in the right direction with getting all the inflammation and pain out right now. Opening Day definitely isn't out of the picture, but if I'm not feeling good and I still have pain and discomfort in there, I got to get that fixed before anything."

Manager Buck Showalter said on Wednesday that he looked over at the calendar when Markakis went down, but said he's not ready to rule out Markakis for April 2 at the Tampa Bay Rays.

"I"m not trying to handicap right now," Showalter said. "I think Nick, understanding the length of the season, he knows when he's right and when he's not. It's his strong belief that if he can [be ready], he will. Obviously he wants to."

Markakis said once he finishes the medication in another five days his timetable depends on how his body reacts and heals. The 29-year-old hasn't played in a Grapefruit League game since March 1, and he said just stopping any baseball activity already has him feeling better. He'll need to resume baseball activities before playing in games.

Once Markakis is healthy, however, getting plate appearances shouldn't be an issue. He could take as many as he needs on the Minor League side. Health is the question.

"[I'm feeling] 95 percent better from when it first happened, so that's a good thing," Markakis said. "We just got to get that pain out of there and let it calm down."

Markakis, one of the organization's most durable players, underwent three surgeries (abdominal, right wrist and left thumb) in 2012 and played in at least 160 games in the three seasons prior to last year. He has played in four Grapefruit League games this spring, going 3-for-12 with an RBI and two strikeouts.

Showalter said that Markakis' absence doesn't create a greater need to get Nolan Reimold (right shoulder) back with greater haste.

"Not at all," Showalter said. "It only becomes important for both guys to get healthy."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.