Machado uncertain about opening day

Though he’s been cleared to start some baseball activities, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado can’t guarantee that he’ll be in the lineup for the March 31 opener at Camden Yards.

Machado is allowed to hit and can start running, but he’s not permitted to run the bases or take off after making contact at the plate.

“Not full-go yet, but it’s a process,” he said today at FanFest. “Little by little, I’ll be able to get back out there and put on a uniform and play, but that was definitely good news from the doctor.

“My knee’s not stable enough yet and I’ve still got to do a couple of things to keep working on that, so the other knee doesn’t get hurt like the other one did. That’s a good sign that I got cleared to do this. It’s a little more than what I’ve been doing.”

Asked if he’s confident about playing on opening day, Machado replied, “I’m confident that I’m going to be ready in a couple of weeks, but I can’t give you a real answer on a timeline when I’m going to be ready. I’m only 3 1/2 months out of surgery. This takes four to six months and that’s more to the six-month range that guys go out there and are 110 percent ready to play.

“Honestly, I can’t really say, I can’t really give you an answer on that. I still haven’t done anything. I’m only 3 1/2 months out of surgery. I’ve just started running. Rome wasn’t built in one day. It’s a process. Once I get out there and I’m cleared to play, let’s see how I feel when I’m sliding into second base trying to take out the second baseman. How do I feel the next day? Am I going to be able to wake up and is it going to be achy? Is it going to be hurting? All that comes into play. Am I going to be ready physically to play every day? Is my swing going to be there seeing live pitching? Once I start playing, then I can give you a better idea.

“I’m trying to play 162 games. Once I get out, I’m going to play every day. I’m not going to take a day off here or take a day off there just because my knee is aching or I don’t feel right strength-wise. I definitely do have the confidence now to go out there and get better at what I need to be doing and get my strength back, which is the most important thing.”

Machado will be re-evaluated in six weeks, at which point he could be cleared to play in exhibition games. It won’t happen before mid-March.

“There’s no shot,” he said. “Probably late March, mid-March if everything goes according to plan. Knock on wood, I haven’t had any setbacks. My knee hasn’t swelled up, but if it does, that might push me back two weeks and everything changes. Just taking it day by day and trying not to do too much and just keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Machado underwent a dynamic functional stability test yesterday in Los Angeles before flying into Baltimore. He viewed a videotape that examined his technique for running to further explain how he tore the medial patellofemoral ligament in his knee, which required reconstructive surgery in October.

“We did a treadmill run,” he said. “There were cameras all over the place. It was phenomenal. We ran on the treadmill first to see if you’re equally stepping the same weight on each leg, and that was fine. Everything was great. Just the cameras looking at cutting side to side, shuffles, jumping off a box. That’s all on video.

“Just getting my hips stronger and keeping it balanced, my knee straight over my toes. It’s not much, but just a tiny bit that in the long run may affect me. It’s better now that I have time to fix it and correct it. It’s all muscle memory, whatever the brain tells that muscle to do. I’ve run my entire life how I did last year and I’ve had two injuries in the past three years. That’s definitely not right. From what I saw yesterday, it’s an easy fix but it’s more mental than anything else and it’s more getting the right positioning and getting my glutes and quads where they need to be.

“From what I heard yesterday and saw on the video, it was phenomenal just to see what I need to improve on so this won’t occur again. Seeing on video what my knee does and what I need to get better on. Kind of give me an idea what I need to work on this month to finally be full-go and get back on the field.”

Machado basically has to re-learn how to run.

“I have my rehab guy down at the University of Miami and he does a tremendous job,” Machado said. “I’m ahead of schedule a little bit and he’s done a great job. Now from what we got yesterday is something that gives us a better idea of what I need to do. Now it’s a different rehab. I’m done with the rehab. Now it’s how soon can I get out there to the field and fix what I need to fix, whether it’s running to a base, so when I step on the base my knee doesn’t buckle, doesn’t go anywhere.

“It’s been a real rough offseason, my first offseason where I haven’t been able to do my work to get ready for spring training. It’s been tough, but I think I’m going to be better than I was before. My strength has definitely gotten better. I think it’s the best decision I made in my career to get the surgery, just to fix these problems that are going to help me out 15, 10 years from now. Not something that’s just a quick fix for now.”

Machado is confident that the injury won’t happen again.

“I’ve got a brand new knee,” he said. “It feels tight now and it’s going to feel tight for a while now, but it’s definitely going to help me in the long run. It was great that I did it. It’s just helping me out overall getting my strength in spots that I never thought of - moves, your hips. You need it to run and to focus on the right things to do.”

Manager Buck Showalter hasn’t mapped out a specific plan for Machado this spring.

“No, but he knows everything that’s going on and he knows that whenever I’m ready, he’s not going to rush me,” Machado said. “He tells me all the time, ‘Don’t rush it. Keep going how you’re going and you’re going to be fine. You’re going to put on a uniform again. Whether it’s April or October, you’re going to put it on. Just keep doing the rights things so you can be healthy when you get out there.’

“Like I did last year. I was on pace to play 162 games. That’s something that Buck ... you’ve got to go out there and play. You’re not going to put on an Orioles uniform every day, you’re not going to be an Oriole. That’s how Buck sees it.”

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