Baltimore Orioles coaches help Wilson Betemit up after he collapsed between first and second base during the fifth inning of an exhibition game against Boston. Betemit injured his knee on the play. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

— The sight of Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Wilson Betemit rolling and writhing on the infield grass of Ed Smith Stadium on Monday afternoon suddenly quieted a sellout crowd and sent chills through the home dugout.

As routine an act as Betemit’s was — going on a full-count pitch from first base to second during the Orioles’ 12-9 Grapefruit League win over the Boston Red Sox — the result was anything but. Betemit’s right knee buckled mid-stride as he stumbled in the base path, crumbled to the ground and clutched his knee in severe pain.

Moments after Betemit was carted off the field, Orioles Manager Buck Showalter called the sight “sickening” to a national TV audience watching the game. He left the dugout in the seventh inning to be with Betemit in the trainer’s room to console him, and when speaking to the media following the game he looked blankly at the ground after struggling to speak optimistically about Betemit’s uncertain prognosis.

“He’s pretty down right now, as we are,” Showalter said. “Wilson is one of the better young men in the game. For him personally, hopefully we get lucky. But he’s a tough guy. For him to lay there [like that], you know he was in some pain.”

An MRI exam would reveal a Grade 2/3 tear of Betemit’s posterior cruciate ligament with associated injuries, according to the team. Betemit, one of the Orioles’ top hitters against right-handed pitching last season, hobbled out of the team’s complex — his right leg in a full mobilizer.

More about the degree of Betemit’s injury will be known Tuesday. Orioles Executive Vice President Dan Duquette said Monday night he didn’t have a timetable on Betemit’s return, but hoped his recovery would be more in terms of weeks rather than months.

The 31-year-old Betemit was slated to fill the Orioles’ designated hitter spot against right-handed pitching. He entered Monday’s game against the Red Sox hitting just .194 (7 for 36) this spring, but was beginning to find his swing. In his past two games his was 3 for 5 with six RBI, and he drove in four runs — including a three-run homer — on Monday before leaving the game.

“He was really coming [along],” Showalter said.

Markakis set to start

Outfielder Nick Markakis is slated to return to the starting lineup for the first time in more than three weeks on Tuesday for the team’s final Grapefruit League road game.

Markakis, who has been sidelined with a small disc herniation in his neck and hasn’t played since March 1, will be the designated hitter against the Minnesota Twins, Showalter said.

— Baltimore Sun