Season winding down, Machado reflects on his first full year in pro ball

As his first full season as a pro ballplayer winds down, Manny Machado feels pretty good about how it has gone.

He began the year as an 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League. Now, five months later, he'll end it as a 19-year-old in the Carolina League.

In between, the Orioles' 2010 first-round pick got off to a blazing hot start at the plate, dealt with a knee injury, played in an All-Star game and learned how to handle struggling at the bat for the first time in his life.

In the season's first 25 games with Single-A Delmarva, Machado was batting .333 with six doubles, two triples, five homers, 21 RBIs and an OPS of 1.062.

But on May 5, he injured his left knee in a game at Asheville and missed the next month. Upon returning, he played more with Delmarva, started in the Sally League All-Star game and then moved up to Single-A Frederick in late June.

As one of the youngest players in the Carolina League - he didn't turn 19 until July 6 - Machado has struggled somewhat to hit older, more experienced pitchers. It's all been a solid development and learning experience for him.

"I came in here (at Frederick) with no expectations of hitting .320 or how I was hitting in Delmarva," Machado said this week at Harry Grove Stadium. "It's a tougher league and better quality pitching. I am still young and it's my first full season. I think I've had a good year. I kind of finished off pretty slow, but think I've had a good year.

"In this game you fail seven out of 10 times and hit .300. This game is all about failure. If you can't deal with that, just pick another sport. It's a tough sport."

In 63 games with Frederick, Machado is batting .245 with 12 doubles, three triples, five homers, 26 RBIs and a .692 OPS. He hit .317 in July with Frederick, but has batted just .219 since Aug. 1.

"It's tough not going 2-for-4 or 3-for-4 every game. It tells you how hard the game is and how much harder you have to work to stay focused and consistent."

Machado and the Keys are now in the Carolina League playoffs and their best-of-five series with Potomac is tied at 1-1. Manny says he has really enjoyed being a part of what has become a close-knit Keys team.

"We get along very well, on the field and off the field. We are united as team. When I got here, they welcomed me real well," he said. "It's been great. I love the lifestyle, playing baseball everyday. We are getting paid to do what we love. You can't do better."

Then he headed off to the field for some pregame work, realizing this would be another chance to learn more about himself and to continue to develop as a player.

"This year was a startoff year, to see how I could deal with everything. Coming into next year, I'll know more. How the pitchers will pitch me. I've been around good players and I've learned a lot. I think next year, it won't be easy, but it will be easier than this year," he said.

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