Markakis is top August rookie

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Outfielder honored by AL award

Tejada down on 3rd, up in hits race

September 06, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun Reporter

ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- When he hit only .182 in April, Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis said it was hard to believe he would receive any recognition this season. But Markakis said he stayed positive, knowing he would "come around."

The rookie's hot streak started in June but picked up full steam in August when he batted .354 with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs in 21 games. He was rewarded yesterday by being named the American League Rookie of the Month for August.

"It's a good honor," the 22-year-old said. "It's something I am proud of, but I still have to go out there and continue to play hard and finish up the season. Hopefully, I can just continue what I've been doing the last few months."

It was the first Rookie of the Month honor for Markakis, who beat out Cleveland Indians pitchers Jeremy Sowers and Thomas Mastny and Minnesota Twins pitcher Pat Neshek. Markakis also had 71 total bases, 22 runs, seven doubles, a .740 slugging percentage and a .400 on-base percentage last month, which included his three-home run game against Minnesota on Aug. 22.

He said the honor was right up there with that game and his first major league hit this season. Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo called the honor well-deserved and said he hopes Markakis will have a good September and vault himself into Rookie of the Year contention.

"I think if Nick has a good [month], he can be right in the middle of it," Perlozzo said.

Tejada in batting races

With his ninth-inning single Monday night, capping a 2-for-4 night, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada took over the major league lead in hits. Entering yesterday, Tejada had 185 hits, one more than the Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki.

He also raised his average to .337, No. 3 in the American League. Before last night, he trailed only Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer (.346) and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (.344).

"I am really happy to be in that race," said Tejada, who is also on pace to set the Orioles' all-time single-season hits record, held by Cal Ripken, who had 211 in 1983. "I never think that I am going to be that type of hitter ... that I am going to be so consistent that I would be this year. I never stop working and I think that's why I have the kind of numbers that I have this year."

Tejada has also spent considerable time over the past two days answering questions from Angels beat reporters. The Orioles and Angels were in talks before the non-waiver trade deadline about Tejada, whose unwillingness to switch to third base was one of a number of factors that nixed the deal.

"I am a shortstop," he said yesterday. "I think I can help anybody from shortstop. That's all I can say. I am not doing anything that I never did. Why should I leave here and play another position?"

Birkins done for season

To make room for catcher Raul Chavez on the 40-man roster, the Orioles transferred left-handed reliever Kurt Birkins from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list yesterday, ending the rookie's season.

Birkins appeared in 35 games for the Orioles, going 5-2 with a 4.94 ERA in 31 innings. He was placed on the disabled list Aug. 1 with left elbow neuritis. The Orioles were hoping he would rejoin the club after rosters expanded Sept. 1, but Birkins was still struggling with left elbow pain.

Pitching for Double-A Bowie on Aug. 27, Birkins gave up four runs on four hits, including two homers, in two innings. Perlozzo said surgery could be an option.

"I think they were going to let him get back on the mound and see if the irritation went away and if it didn't. I guess he'd have to consider that himself, as an option," Perlozzo said. "It would be up to him."

Chavez appeared in seven games earlier this season with the Orioles, going 1-for-11. He will likely become the third catcher with Chris Widger expected to miss some time with a pinched nerve in his shoulder that is being caused by a bulging disk, according to Perlozzo.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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