Markakis on Braves rebuild: It’s better than where we were

Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis (22) follows through on a two-run double int he second inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis (22) follows through on a two-run double int he second inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Nick Markakis is no stranger to rebuilds - and he came to Atlanta knowing that he wouldn’t be winning anytime soon. Markakis signed with the Braves in December 2014, the offseason that ignited the team’s retooling period.

On the surface, it was an odd fit: Markakis, 31 years old at the time, had spent his career with perpetually rebuilding Baltimore. The Orioles had finally become a contender but, after declining Markakis’ mutual option, the once elite defensive outfielder signed with the Braves to fill the void in right field after Jason Heyward was traded to St. Louis.

Three years later, Markakis thinks the young talent is progressing as well the team could’ve hoped.

“It’s better than where we were when I got here,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of guys. It’s a learning process. They’ve got some good pieces here. I’ve seen plenty of times where guys come out and just tear it up, then fall off and not really learning from failure or anything. We’ve got some guys here that obviously haven’t started out where they wanted, but you learn from failure and these guys have talent. They seem to have a good head on their shoulders and they’re going to overcome that, produce and be the people they’re supposed to be.”

Second baseman Ozzie Albies and other young players have looked to Markakis as a mentor. He’s more of a lead by example type, but he’s there to answer any questions.

“It’s part of the business,” Markakis said. “You just try to help out any way you can. These guys come to you and you offer your wisdom or however they need help. I think the biggest thing is going about your business in a professional way and how you’re supposed to. Hopefully it rubs off and trickles its way down.”

As for Markakis himself, he injured his wrist diving for a ball in Wednesday night’s win over the Rangers. After a couple of days out of the lineup, he was back Sunday against the Marlins.

“I knew it was awkward,” Markakis said of his dive. “I’d never done that before, where I dove for the ball and the tip of my glove caught the grass. That grass out there, the type of grass that it is, it’s pretty full and it’s sticky when you dive. You just have to be careful. I maybe let my guard down a little bit and paid for it. I knew something wasn’t right, it was an awkward feeling, but there wasn’t enough pain or concern for me to come out of the game. I knew it wasn’t significant. It’s nice to have a couple days off and recover. I’m ready to get back in there.”

The Braves were 63-78 entering Sunday. The rest of September will be devoted to evaluating prospects, making veterans essentially an afterthought. Even with the team out of the playoff race, Markakis doesn’t need to look far for motivation.

“This is a kid’s game that we get paid a lot of money to play,” he said. “If that’s not enough motivation to go out there, then maybe you should look somewhere else. This is a baseball game that can be kind to you and be mean to you. How you take it is your approach every day, and to be able to go out there with a select few and play this game at such a high level, that should be your motivation right there.

“And the competition. It’s awesome. You’re playing against the best players in the world. Everybody wants to play in the major leagues, whether you’re the top of the division or the bottom. You still have a job. We’ve got to play and finish up strong. I always say it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. And we’re going to look to go out there and win as many ball games as we can.”

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