FORT MYERS, Fla. - The ninth inning took on special meaning tonight because shortstop Manny Machado stepped to the plate against Twins reliever Chuck James.
Of course, it happened while reporters were racing down from the press box to the seats beside the Orioles’ dugout.
Machado grounded to short in the Orioles’ 5-2 loss at Hammond Stadium.
“No, not really,” he said. “I was just a little too patient.”
Machado, the third overall pick in last June’s draft, didn’t know he was making the trip until informed at Twin Lakes Park around 2:50 p.m.
“I was very excited,” he said. “I had to just run into the clubhouse and get dressed and hop on the bus. It was a good feeling to be called up and come play here with a bunch of veterans and pro guys.”
The bus transported Machado to Ed Smith Stadium, where he hopped into a car with Brady Anderson for the drive to Fort Myers.
“We were just talking, getting to know each other, get to know Brady a little better,” he said.
Machado made a nice play in the eighth inning on a slow bouncer up the middle off the bat of Jason Repko. Machado avoided the bag while making a smooth pick-up and quick throw to first, where umpire Brian O’Nora appeared to miss the call.
Was Repko out?
“Oh yeah,” Machado said, grinning.
“He got the out,” manager Buck Showalter said. “The ump missed the call. He’s out.”
Machado could be seen chatting with Brian Roberts and Adam Jones on the field during batting practice.
“Just learning from them, just talking a little bit, talking to Roberts and A.J. out there. Having some fun,” Machado said.
Not a bad way for an 18-year-old to spend an evening.
“Oh man, it was great,” he said. “I was out there with a bunch of veterans and I felt great. I learned a lot from them from this game.”
Showalter noticed that left-hander Brian Matusz was “rushing” tonight.
“You could tell he was a little out of tempo,” Showalter said. “(Francisco) Liriano threw 70-80 pitches and struck out nine. You don’t like to see either one of them. We know he’s better than that. He went down to the bullpen and got some more work in, got some more ups and down. At least, he’s feeling a lot better than he did when he left the game. I just didn’t want to take any chances. That’s too many pitches in two innings.”
Matusz still hasn’t completed five innings statistically, but Showalter said, “In the pure sense of it, he did tonight. He did it down in the bullpen. Obviously, that doesn’t take the place of normal ups and downs. I think he’ll get there.”
Brian Roberts went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Derrek Lee went 0-for-3 with a walk and one strikeout. They’re both penciled into tomorrow night’s lineup.
“They felt good tonight,” Showalter said. “Brian felt really good. I think they’re both in a good place right now. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Jim Johnson threw another scoreless inning to lower his ERA to 1.50.