BALTIMORE -- Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis never doubted he would run out on the orange carpet as an Opening Day starter, and that's exactly what the 28-year-old --- roughly three months removed from abdominal surgery -- did Friday shortly before 3 p.m. ET.
"Physically, I'm about as good as I can be right now," said Markakis, who added that there was "absolutely not" a chance he'd miss the start of the season. "It's just a matter of getting out there and playing now. All the rehab and hard work in Spring Training is all behind me and I can now focus on the season."
Markakis -- who hit a two-run shot off the Twins' Carl Pavano in the first inning -- was brought along slowly this spring, playing in eight games and hitting .250 (6-for-24) with two homers and three RBIs. He made his debut in the field in mid-March after serving at designated hitter.
"I thought it went well in spring," said Markakis, who has identified his first crossover step in the field as one of his biggest challenges. "I feel like I had enough at-bats and enough innings in the field and it all leads up to this day now, and I am ready to kick it off."
Markakis -- who had surgery in January to repair a torn abductor muscle -- is coming off a season in which he hit .284 with 15 homers and 73 RBIs in 160 games and was awarded a Rawlings Gold Glove along with catcher Matt Wieters during Friday's pregame ceremony. Asked if he felt the same as he did to open last year, Markakis said he felt close.
"Obviously there are some things down there that I could tell I had surgery, but that is going to take a while to get out of there," he said. "But I am pain free and I feel pretty flexible and I am pretty excited where I am right now."
Johnson named closer; Gregg's role unclear
BBALTIMORE -- Manager Buck Showalter officially named Jim Johnson the Orioles' closer on Friday afternoon, news that was hardly a shock but still significant given that Showalter had declined all spring to formally appoint Johnson the ninth-inning man.
"It won't be an easy job," Showalter said of the role formerly held by Kevin Gregg. "He'll have some times where he won't be aesthetically pleasing or whatever you want to call it, but Jimmy showed us last year that he's capable of doing it."
Johnson -- who was slowed this spring with a lower back injury -- converted his final eight saves last season and progressed in his final exhibition outings. The 28-year-old right-hander was away from the team for two days for the birth of his son on Tuesday, and Johnson rejoined the O's for Thursday's workout.
"He texted me something about the baby and something else, and I said, 'Congratulations. And by the way, you're closing,'" Showalter said. "And he said, 'Yeah, I know.'"
The news wasn't a shock to Gregg, who spoke to Showalter many times this spring and is well aware of his name dominating trade rumors.
"I knew that [Johnson would be the closer]," said Gregg, who converted 22 of 29 save opportunities last year. "I'm going to be [politically correct]. I'm here to help the team. I'll pitch whenever Buck needs me to pitch."
Pressed further on if he's OK with not closing, Gregg said, "Do I have a choice? It's not like I dictate when I'll pitch."
With relievers Matt Lindstrom, Pedro Strop and Luis Ayala, Showalter has some options to bridge to Johnson and was vague when asked what Gregg's role will be moving forward.
"Certainly pitching late in the ballgames is one of them," Showalter said. "We've got a lot of options there."
Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair started his Major League coaching career as pitching coach for the Indians in 1992. His first game as a Major League coach was on the day Camden Yards opened.
Second baseman Brian Roberts took infield work with a coach's helmet on and participated in pregame warmups. Roberts did not run out on the orange carpet, but was going to try to watch some of the game from the dugout.
Among the loudest ovations in the Opening Day ceremony were for special assistant Brady Anderson, Jim Johnson and Robert Andino. Kevin Gregg was booed.
Lefty Dana Eveland, who cleared waivers earlier in the week, was been added to Triple-A Norfolk's rotation. Righty Armando Galarraga was released.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.