Markakis drawing praise for stellar defensive effort
Showalter lauds right fielder's ability to play angles at Camden Yards
BALTIMORE -- Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis is known best for his consistency with his bat, but lately he's been making noise in the outfield as well.
In the past week, Markakis has made at least four above-average catches. Two came just moments before colliding with the wall in foul territory, one while crashing into the outfield wall, and another in a full sprawl followed by a slide on the wet grass.
"There are some plays he makes regardless of the score, that's what impresses me," manager Buck Showalter said. "There are some guys who will back off sometimes with different things. Nicky, he's very good. We're lucky to have him. That's a tough right field to play. He's very familiar with American League East places, he does it on the road, too. That's why it's hard not to run him out there. He impacts the game."
And apparently the combination of consistent hitting and above-average defense in right field has caught the attention of fans across the league. Markakis moved up a spot, to third in the latest All-Star balloting. He won a Gold Glove in 2011, but has never made an All-Star team.
"Along with work and working at it, I think it's just more experience," Markakis said of his defensive position. "Knowing the ballparks, knowing the angles that the ball is going to come off the wall, and just getting yourself in the correct position. You can cut down a lot of time by getting yourself in the right position and making the not necessarily strong throw, just quick, accurate throw," he said.
"We have team meetings and [first-base coach Wayne] Kirby does a lot of work getting us in proper position for each hitter," Markakis said. "You've got to be in the right position, know where to be on certain counts, certain pitches. It's all just part of experience, too."
Much the same as a hitter can feel locked-in at the plate, Markakis said outfielders can experience hot and cold streaks. And on this homestand, he's played a great defensive right field.
"I don't know if there's anybody in the game that knows the nuances of his home park as well as Nicky," Showalter said. "I'm amazed sometimes by the caroms that he gets in right field. Because if you go stand out there in right field, there are a lot of different places it could hit and go different directions."
Chen throws from full mound, reports no issues
BALTIMORE -- Left-handed starter Wei-Yin Chen (strained oblique) has cleared the final hurdle necessary to rejoin the Orioles. He threw 35 pitches from a full mound Saturday in Sarasota, Fla., and woke up Sunday feeling fine.
"That was a big step [Saturday]," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He came in today and felt good after throwing from a regular mound [Saturday]."
He's not ready to pitch in games yet, but the club has mapped out Chen's recovery schedule, Showalter said.
Chen, who threw off a half-mound on Thursday with no reported issues, will fly north to rejoin the team and will take his next scheduled work day with pitching coach Rick Adair.
"At some point, him and Rick will decide when he needs to go out and pitch [for an affiliate]," Showalter said of Chen, who will travel with the Orioles to Detroit and Toronto this week. "Hopefully sometime during that trip."
Chen, who left his start May 12 in Minnesota and was placed on the 15-day disabled list several days later, has not pitched for the Orioles in more than a month.
Prospects Bundy, Schoop progressing in recoveries
BALTIMORE -- A pair of the Orioles' top prospects are making strides in their recovery processes.
Dylan Bundy (right flexor mass tightness) will make the next step in his throwing progression Monday. He'll stay on flat ground, but will move back to 90 feet for two sessions of 25 throws.
Bundy received a platelet-rich plasma injection about six weeks ago and has been throwing without setbacks for about a week.
Top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop (lower back stress fracture) took the next step in his recovery. He's jogging in a pool and throwing.
Schoop was prescribed rest when he was reevaluated near the end of May by a doctor in California, who confirmed the original diagnosis of a stress fracture in his lower back. Manager Buck Showalter said at that time Schoop could be playing in the first or second week of July.
• Steve Johnson (oblique) is making mild improvements, but hasn't come very far. The Orioles take it slow with oblique injuries because a setback could mean an extended stay on the disabled list.
• The Orioles might push back Jason Hammel (virus) to start Tuesday. He may make his scheduled start Monday, depending on how the O's need to use thier bullpen during Sunday's game, Showalter said. Hammel spent two days away from the clubhouse with the illness, but was back Sunday after receiving an IV on Saturday.
• Zach Britton was scratched from his scheduled start at Triple-A Norfolk. He's one option if Hammel can't pitch Monday.
• T.J. McFarland, who has pitched well out of the bullpen lately, would not be an option Monday, Showalter said. He threw 43 pitches Saturday, but he could be an option to start Tuesday in Detroit if needed.
• Minor League infielder Travis Ishikawa filed a written request to opt out of his Minor League contract with the Orioles on Sunday morning, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Ishikawa, who was one of 10 Minor Leaguers named a Topps Player of the Month for May, has a clause in his contract making the opt-out possible.
If he's not added to Baltimore's 25-man roster in the next 48 hours, he will be given his release and will become a free agent, the Sun reports.
The 29-year-old first baseman is hitting .316/.413/.525 this season for Triple-A Norfolk.
Derek Wetmore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.