KISSIMMEE, Florida — Nick Markakis is looking forward to opening day in Atlanta. Crabcakes down south, that's another story.
After nine years with Baltimore — and plenty of the Maryland delicacy — Markakis signed a four-year, $44 million contract with the Braves this offseason.
"It would be like trying to find a good lobster in Iowa," Markakis said.
Recovering from December neck surgery to fix a herniated disc that has been bothering him for two years, Markakis hasn't been very active this spring. He says it's just precautionary as he tries to get ready for opening day in the city he spent much of his childhood.
Markakis is expected to replace the traded Jason Heyward in right field.
"I can go right now but there's no need to rush it," Markakis said. "I'll play a few spring training games and I can be ready to start the season."
Heyward is one of the best defensive outfielders in the National League, winning his second Gold Glove. Markakis is no slouch, either. He won a Gold Glove with the Orioles last season and has a strong arm. At 31, he can still hit but his numbers were down last season, batting only .276 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs.
Atlanta dealt Heyward and Justin Upton during the offseason. Melvin Upton is still in center field. Left field is wide open after the trade of Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros.
Markakis didn't want to talk about leaving Baltimore, the only organization he was part of before this year, but said he's looking forward to playing in Atlanta. The Braves don't have their usually high expectations this season, but Markakis said nobody should count them out in the difficult NL East.
"I've played against these guys," Markakis said. "This team has consistency and it's a great place to play. I look forward to the challenge."
Said Markakis: "What kind of odds would you have given me last year if I told you that San Francisco and Kansas City would be playing in Game 7 of the World Series?" Markakis asked. "A lot of stranger things have happened in baseball."