If Manny Machado's recovery from knee surgery doesn't rate as the highlight of the Orioles' offseason, it definitely belongs in the top two.
Camden Yards didn't burn down.
I'm not married to this list. Dylan Bundy is playing catch and could be pitching again at Double-A Bowie within the next five months. Matt Wieters is the only arbitration-eligible player on the club who hasn't signed for 2014. Outfielder David Lough and reliever Ryan Webb appear to be solid additions. The early reviews on pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti are extremely positive. Tyler Colvin didn't file a grievance.
Machado will undergo final dynamic functional testing Friday in Los Angeles, at which point he should be cleared for baseball activities.
What exactly does this mean?
Better that I defer to an expert.
"The test is very commonly done with most ACL tear rehabs," said Gene Shirokobrod, a doctor of physical therapy and certified orthopedic manual therapist based in Clarksville. "Once you get to the next stage of rehab, functional is pretty much lingo for doing any activity that mimics everyday motions and upcoming sporting movements that you're going to do.
"The dynamic functional stability test is weight bearing motions that the knee has to endure. The knee bends, straightens, but there are also other forces acting on the knee. There's hopping, plyometric motions to test the knee and the stability of the knee. He'll hop forward and back, left and right, zigzag patterns. Every single motion that you can think of hopping on one leg."
The Orioles fully expect Dr. Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the surgery on Machado's knee on Oct. 13 and examined him on Jan. 16, to give him the green light to begin full baseball activities.
"It depends on the protocol," Shirokobrod said. "If they're focusing just on the pure stability, then yes. They'll be looking at the biomechanics of the knee. As the knee bends after landing from hop and absorbs force from the ground, the quad should slowly bend the knee under control, the knee should stay pretty straight. If he's hopping and the knee collapses inward a little toward the other leg, that's an indication of weakness of the quad in controlling the knee. Functionally, he wouldn't be ready to progress. He would have to do more strengthening and more dynamic stabliity. More exercies to mimic that motion, that plyometric motion."
ElAttrache has estimated that Machado is six to eight weeks ahead of schedule. Does this news come as a surprise?
"It's such a minor ligament that healing time varies a lot," Shirokobrod said. "Just returning to sports and functioning always varies. People are in different stages in their fitness and their strength and everything when an injury happens. It all varies.
"Him being ahead of schedule is a very subjective timetable based on him. Comparing it to other people such as other high-level athletes, he might be right on schedule. He's a major league player at 21 who won a Gold Glove. I'd say he's in a very small percentage of people in terms of body makeup.
"I'd be surprised if he wasn't ahead of schedule. I'd be more concerned."
The test should last about an hour, "depending on how fancy they want to get, if they're using videotape to analyze his motions," Shirokobrod said.
"I'd think because he's such a high priority and such a valuable asset, they'd probably do a slow motion analysis of the biomechanics and measure all the angles. It shouldn't take that much time, but it depends on the protocol. Sometimes, you've got to do it once and wait X amount of time to make sure there's no damage and swelling and things like that. But typically it doesn't take that long."
The Orioles begin the 2014 season on March 31 against the Red Sox at Camden Yards, and Machado figures to start at third base and bat second against left-hander Jon Lester.
"That's very realistic if he's cleared," Shirokobrod said.
Remember when Machado debated whether to have the surgery or attempt to rehab the knee? There's no second-guessing his decision.
"He'd be doing the exact same rehab with or without the surgery," Shirokobrod said. "It looks like he made a pretty good decision."
Shameless plug alert: I'm joining Jim Hunter again tonight on the "Hot Stove Baseball" show from 7-8 p.m. on WBAL Radio.
Pitchers Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman will call into the show.