SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles third baseman Manny Machado worked out for the first time in spring training today, though he’s been on the field for a couple of weeks and has been hitting for more than a month.
It just seemed different in an Orioles uniform.
“It was the first time out on the field, the first time putting an Orioles shirt on,” he said. “It was some team activities. Overall, I felt great. I’m just getting ready to get this show on the road.”
Machado still isn’t sure whether he will be ready for the March 31 opener at Camden Yards after undergoing surgery on his left knee in October.
“Honestly, like I said at FanFest, it’s tough to say. It really is,” he said. “I’ve gotten so much stronger than I have in the past and I’ve worked ... my legs are tremendously improved on everything. Running and strength-wise, it’s increased a lot. It’s a thing that I still have to perfect some things. Like today when we were sprinting, I have to perfect some things. Just nit-picking things.
“I want to be perfect when I go out there. I don’t want to go out there half-assing it. I want to be 110 percent perfect. Everything I do has to be perfect in order to get back there and start playing. But 162 games, I’m going to try to play as many games as I can. If I miss the first week or two weeks or whatever it may be, once I get going, I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep going and play.”
Machado has been cleared to do just about everything except run the bases and slide. He could receive clearance to play in exhibition games in mid-March.
“I can hit off live pitching,” he said. “I can do everything else. The only thing I can’t do is run the bases and hit and take off running. I’m not ready for those things yet, even though I’m getting there. It’s just not the right thing to do. I don’t want to force getting injured at this point. This is too close to the season and too close to being ready that I don’t want to overdo it.
“The only thing I can’t do until (the doctor) clears me is run the bases. Basically, play in a game. I can’t hit and take off running and slide into first base or second base for a double. That’s the only thing. Other than that, he told me I can go out there and take grounders with the team, hit, hit live off a pitcher, do the defensive drills. Do everything other than those three things.”
The Orioles would prefer to limit Machado’s lateral movements in the field.
“I’ve done it before, but at this point it’s just perfecting going forward first,” he said. “It’s easy going sideways. The hard part is being able to run perfect straight ahead. I think it’s still getting there. The other things are going to come naturally because my strength is going to be there, mostly my glutes, my butt is what needs to be right.”
Machado must remind himself to proceed with caution, to hold himself back and not risk another injury.
“I think it’s the hardest part,” he said. “The way I have to approach things now is mentally do the things right. I’m training myself to do certain things while I run and cut and do the certain things I need to be doing. At the same time, I’ve got to think, I can’t overdo it at this point. So close and how far I’ve come, I don’t want to go out there and run the bases or slide or dive for a ball. It’s hard to hold myself back.
“I’ve never been hurt before this time other than when I dislocated my kneecap a couple of years ago. I’ve always been an active kid. I’ve done everything I needed to do with no restrictions. To go out there and be limited on what I need to be doing in what I can do, it’s tough. It’s not an easy thing to do.”
Machado appreciates that manager Buck Showalter and the coaching staff aren’t seeking daily updates on his knee and status.
“I went into there to talk to Buck today and he was like, ‘What are you waiting for? Get out of here. Do you want me to ask you about your knee? No,’ ” Machado said. “He knows I’ve gotten ready. I’ve put everything I needed to into my rehab, into getting back on the field. He’s seen it and he has faith in me that I need to do what I need to do.
“It does help that they’re not coming up to me every day. Obviously, they have to ask. It’s not ... you don’t have a fever. It’s a surgery and coming back from it, it’s tough. I’m ready physically, but it’s more mental.
“I need to play 162 games. I need to play every day. I need to give 110 percent. You guys are with us all along, you know how Buck is. It’s, you’ve got to play every day, you’ve got to go out there and give 110 percent. We’re not trying to be in first place in August, in July, in June. We’re trying to make the playoffs, and to do that, we need to be ready mentally and physically.”