The thumb injury for Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis could not have come at a worse time for Baltimore. The Orioles, locked in a tight race for the American league East division title, lost their leadoff hitter for the remainder of the season due to an errant CC Sabathia fastball.
Markakis, Baltimore's long-time No. 3 hitter, had hit at the top of the order since returning from wrist surgery in July. The Baltimore offense had taken off since Markakis' move up in the order and propelled the team into the thick of the pennant chase.
Markakis had his thumb surgically repaired over the weekend, but he is not expected to return to action before the end of the regular season. The right fielder could potentially play in the postseason, but his teammates have some work to do to make that a reality. The Orioles have been a different team with Markakis in the lineup. Baltimore is 62-42 when Markakis is in the starting lineup this season. The team is just 16-20 without Markakis. The Orioles will need to change that trend if they hope to break the streak of 14 consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance.
Manager Buck Showalter will have to find a leadoff solution from his existing roster. Left fielder Nate McLouth batted leadoff on Sunday and has some experience in the role. The veteran outfielder resurfaced with the Orioles last month after being released by the Pirates earlier this season. McLouth is hitting .268 with a .346 on-base percentage in 33 games with the O's. McLouth's career OBP of .335 makes him a viable, though not ideal, candidate to fill Markakis' shoes.
Showalter's best option may be rookie outfielder L.J. Hoes. The former infielder had a breakout season for Triple-A Norfolk in 2012. Hoes is a prototypical leadoff hitter, with terrific on-base skills and speed. The 22-year-old Hoes had hit .300 with an impressive .374 OBP in 82 games for the Norfolk Tides this season. Hoes figured to get a shot at the left field job in Baltimore next spring. The injury to Markakis has moved up the timetable for the youngster. The Orioles added Hoes to the roster on Monday, and the rookie will likely play left field and lead off against left-handed starters.
*Information gathered from http://www.baseball-reference.com.
- Sports & Recreation
- Nick Markakis
- Baltimore Orioles
- The Orioles