FORT MYERS, Fla.— As he searched for the best things outfielder Nick Markakis brings to the Atlanta Braves, bench coach Walt Weiss shared several.
High credibility. Strong, quiet leadership. Status as one of the most respected players in baseball. Humility. A calming force.
But it was clear Weiss had something else on his mind — and then he said it: "He's one of those guys that's the conscience of the team."
Markakis made some of the strongest comments this spring about the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal.
The soundbite — "I feel every single guy over there deserves a beating" — is what most people heard. But his other comments on how the Astros' use of a video camera in center field to gain a sign-stealing advantage affected baseball's integrity spoke more about what Markakis is about.
"I know we're all competitors, we're out to compete, but there are right ways to do it and wrong ways to do it. I 100% disagree the way with the way they did it. A lot of people were hurt by it," Markakis said.
Weiss, who managed the Colorado Rockies from 2013 to 2016, wasn't surprised by what Markakis said.
"That fire runs pretty deep," said Weiss, whose 14-year MLB playing career included three seasons with the Braves.
"When you see something with our team, it gets guys thinking, 'Should we do this, should we not do this?'" Weiss added. "'Let's watch Nicky or ask him to see if this is what we should be doing.' That's powerful."
Entering his 15th season in the majors, the 36-year-old Markakis is part of a deep outfield that includes Ronald Acuna Jr., who is talking a 50-homer, 50-steal season, newcomer Marcell Ozuna, three-time Gold Glove selection Ender Inciarte and Adam Duvall, who had a strong postseason in 2019.
Markakis hit a solid .285 for the two-time reigning National League East Division champions last year.
"Everything works out for a reason," Markakis said. "The only thing you can do is everything you can. We're here for each other, pulling for each other. You want people to be successful.
"It's a good mix of young and old guys. With this team, all the experience, talent and passion is there. Braves fans should be excited," he said.
Markakis said he doesn't try to impart his views on other guys. In fact, he says he seeks to learn things from them. In the past couple of years, what he's taken from them is not just their daily effort but daily approach.
"How they smile, go about their business, it's a pleasure to come to work," he said. "I don't see myself as the guy everyone comes to and I have an answer. We can learn from other."
When Weiss hears those comments, it only shows him more leadership.
"There's an element of humility," Weiss said. "He raises the bar by the way he works, the way he competes. Especially with a young team, I've always felt you have to have the right type of veterans. The younger players look at those guys. They're learning how to act like a big leaguer."
Markakis said he hasn't received much feedback from the Astros' comments.
"It's been pretty quiet. I said what I said, and I'll leave it at that," he explained. "A thousand things run through your head (before speaking). I paused, collected my thoughts and then deliver what you want to deliver."
One or the other
Atlanta manager Brian Snitker doesn't see third basemen Johan Camargo and Austin Riley splitting time or platooning this season. It's more likely one of those players wins the job and the other gets sent to the minors.
"It all sounds good," Snitker said. "You have your meetings at 4 in the afternoon, and by 9:30 it's blown up. Realistically, no. If you're not playing every day, it doesn't do it justice."
Snitker said both have performed well offensively. Riley got his first work at first base Saturday and Snitker said he's a defensive asset in the outfield.
Snitker said veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman, nursing a swollen elbow, could play Monday night if he felt good after Sunday's workout in North Port. Freeman hit in the batting cage Saturday.
Braves starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz got roughed up by the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, allowing three earned runs on four hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings. He gave up a home run to Rafael Devers.