© 2013 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

03/15/2013 1:32 PM ET

Markakis progressing, in mix for leadoff spot

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Nick Markakis walked into O's manager Buck Showalter's office Friday morning, and the first thing he talked about wasn't his neck -- an encouraging sign in Showalter's eyes.

"When he comes in and plops down in my office and starts talking about something other than that, he feels good today," Showalter said. "He's got two or three more days on that [medication] dose pack, and then he'll have an in-depth conversation with the doctor and see what our next step is. Today's been a good day already."

Though Markakis still can't take the field, Showalter doesn't seem too worried about his lack of at-bats this spring -- and why should he be? The right fielder logged just 24 at-bats last spring before hitting .298 with 13 homers and 28 doubles in 104 regular-season games.

"That last year killed me," Showalter joked, "because now he knows he only needs about 25 [at-bats], and he reminds me of it all the time."

With Markakis still progressing, he does remain in the mix to be Baltimore's leadoff hitter -- a role that is still yet to be decided, according to Showalter. On Friday, center fielder Nate McLouth was slotted in at the top of the order against the Red Sox, while second baseman Brian Roberts -- the club's usual leadoff guy in the past -- was hitting second.

Nolan Reimold could still be in the mix, as well, with Showalter saying nothing is set in stone at this point.

"I'm still looking at everything," Showalter said. "It's way too early not to have an open mind on anything that might present itself that makes us as good as we can be. Like I've said before, I'm just excited that we have multiple options."

Showalter keeps Gonzalez away from Red Sox

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Though the Red Sox's split-squad lineup on Friday wasn't exactly filled with regulars, Orioles manager Buck Showalter still preferred not to give Boston an early look at starter Miguel Gonzalez.

Instead, Gonzalez will pitch four innings against a Double-A squad in front of pitching coach Rick Adair at Twin Lakes. The Orioles are currently in the midst of a stretch in which they play seven of nine games against either American League East rivals or the Twins, whom they face in their home-opening series.

"Power pitchers, relievers, whatever -- who depend a lot on velocity and stuff -- I don't really care about them. It's no secret what's going to happen," Showalter said. "But when you get into guys who depend on pitch sequences and multiple pitches -- the [Jason] Hammels and [Wei-Yin] Chens and Gonzalezes -- I don't like [them facing division foes]. We're going to face them enough during the year."

If it seems like Showalter is being overly cautious, he does have another reason for sending certain starters to Twin Lakes instead of using them in Grapefruit League contests -- which he will do again with Chris Tillman on Saturday and Chen on Monday.

"It's also because you control the pitch counts down there," Showalter said. "If he throws 15, 20 pitches in an inning, we can say, 'That's enough.' So we know he's going to reach the perfect pitch count and innings pitched over there. He's not going to all of the sudden have 30 pitches in an inning and we have to sit him down after two innings here. So we control the environment."

Showalter agrees with call, not with rule

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Following Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Rays, Orioles manager Buck Showalter wasn't too pleased with the unusual catcher's interference call that ultimately awarded Tampa Bay the game-winning run.

Showalter's qualm wasn't with third-base umpire Chad Fairchild -- whom he acknowledged made the proper call -- but instead with the rule itself. That rule, 7.04 (e) in the official rulebook, states:

"Each runner, other than the batter, may without liability to be put out, advance one base when a fielder deliberately touches a pitched ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play, and the award is made from the position of the runner at the time the ball was touched."

It's that rule that allowed Rays top prospect Wil Myers to trot home from third base after Orioles catcher Luis Exposito used his catcher's mask to casually rake in a pitch from top prospect Dylan Bundy that had bounced off his chest protector and stopped just a couple feet in front of him.

"That's a rule, if you stop and think about it, what purpose does it serve?" Showalter said. "The ball is two feet in front of home plate and you're going to decide a ballgame with that? I mean, the call was right, but why is that rule there? What's it keeping from happening?"

Plenty of fans in attendance seemed to be wondering the same thing, as it wasn't immediately clear why Myers had been awarded home plate. Even Bundy admitted he was initially a bit lost on the mound.

"I didn't really know at all what [the call] was, I'd never even heard of that," Bundy said. "I mean, it's not like he meant to throw the mask at the ball, but I guess that doesn't really matter. That's just baseball."

Worth noting

• Tillman, who is dealing with abdominal soreness, threw another successful bullpen session Thursday and will pitch two innings in Minor League camp at Twin Lakes on Saturday.

• Orioles Minor League reliever Jonatan Isenia has been replaced on the Netherlands roster for the championship round of the World Baseball Classic after straining his right elbow. Isenia, who was replaced by Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen, pitched 3 2/3 innings in the Classic, allowing one run on two hits.

The 19-year-old righty went 0-1 with a 1.47 ERA last season in 13 appearances in the Dominican summer league.

Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.