The Orioles are facing a left-handed starter tonight, with the Royals sending Will Smith to the mound. Manny Machado could be in the starting lineup at third base.
Is he ready?
I've been asked that question over and over, on the blog and via Twitter, since the Orioles announced late last night that Machado's contract was being selected from Double-A Bowie. There's only one way to find out - and I don't mean by using my crystal ball. The kid has to play.
"One thing about Manny is he's a hard worker," said Bowie manager Gary Kendall. "He takes ground balls. He's got his routine down. So as far as what he brings to the table, I think he'll fit in fine. And I think he'll grow as he gets around players of that caliber. He has a tremendous aptitude for picking up things and he's always seeking information, and there's no better place than in Baltimore. He'll get so much information from that staff and absorb so much from the players he's going to be around - (J.J.) Hardy and guys like that who have so much game experience and awareness. And he's sharp. It will enhance him to be up there.
"I always felt he was a player who would rise to the occasion. I think he's going to fit right in."
Kendall spoke last night with Orioles manager Buck Showalter while the Baysox were on a bus heading back to their hotel in Altoona. Kendall broke the news to Machado in the lobby before resuming his conversation with Showalter, who wanted to know what he could expect from the 2010 first-round pick.
"I told him certainly there were things he needed to work on," Kendall said. "I said he'll run the bases, be able to take the extra base, steal a base. He didn't mention where Manny would play there when he gets an opportunity to play, but he just needs to focus."
Machado has committed 23 errors, including 22 at shortstop. He made two on one play on the night that he hit for the cycle last weekend.
"Most of his errors here in Bowie have been basically focus errors," Kendall said. "They're errors where he took a play off here and there, errors he can avoid just by playing every pitch. He needs to work on that. But he's got enough arm, got enough tools defensively.
"I just think it's exciting for him."
Machado has limited game experience at third base, playing only twice there, but "he's been doing a lot of work over there," Kendall said. "With that mind, once the seed is planted...
"He takes a lot of ground balls at third. I think he's going to be fine at third with work. He's very athletic. He'll adapt to that position if that's the position they choose.
"Once it becomes routine for him up there, he's going to be fine. Of course, you know there's going to be jitters and he's going to be nervous. Who wouldn't be? He's a 20-year-old kid. But he's a guy who rises to the occasion. And he's been hitting the fastball really good lately. He's been staying short. Pitchers have been getting him out with changeups now and again, but he's turned some fastballs around."
Apparently, he crushed a changeup for a home run last night.
An Orioles official that I spoke with last night said he's "perfectly fine" with Machado moving up.
"He's a tough kid, mentally tough," he said. "He will play through the level of competition. There will be a learning curve, but his talent will play in the big leagues.
"It's a much higher level than he's ever competed in, but his skills will play here. And his mental toughness will serve him well. I'm confident that he can compete here. His talent will allow him to play here. His bat, his arms, his legs."
They will all be here tonight, probably a little sooner than most of us expected.
Update: Machado will wear No. 13. Feel free to list all of your favorite Orioles who wore that number.
I'll close this update by shooting down the theory that the Orioles chose to bring Machado to the majors tonight because the Ravens are playing their first exhibition game. This team is in a pennant race. Duquette isn't checking the Ravens' schedule before making personnel moves.
Nothing wrong with putting a few more butts in the seats with the Royals in town on a Thursday night, but the Ravens' first exhibition game - in Atlanta, where the starters will play one series - isn't a factor.