We already know that Manny Machado is a very talented young player. But a conversation I had with him in the clubhouse Sunday morning provided further proof that the kid is a very smart and savvy player also.
Machado never batted second in the minors for the Orioles. But he's batting second now for the big club.
I wanted to know if batting second means he goes into games with a certain approach or outlook to his at-bats in mind. Does he go in with a specific game plan?
"It just all depends on the situation," Machado said. "If Nate (McLouth) is on early in the game, it's a different situation than if Nate gets on in the seventh inning and we're down one or up one or tied. It's an in-game decision that you make."
In Machado's first pro season in 2010, he had 36 at-bats, all batting third in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and with short-season Single-A Aberdeen. The next season he took all 382 at-bats between Single-A affiliates Delmarva and Frederick in the third spot. He spent most of last year - 358 of 402 at-bats - batting fifth for Double-A Bowie before his August call to the majors.
Manager Buck Showalter was asked during the Minnesota series about his hitters having patience at the plate and what approach they should take.
"You cannot take until you hit. You cannot do it," he said. "You hit until you take, and that's the mentality people miss. If you put that in minor league hitters' and major league hitters' minds, they are not going to hit. It may look aesthetically pleasing statistically for a while, but you will suffer offensively. So our guys are hitting until they take, but you've got a split second to make that decision."
When I asked Machado if he might sometimes take a few pitches with a runner like McLouth on first base, to give him a chance to steal, he said no and explained why.
"I'm going up there swinging. I'm not necessarily looking to take pitches," Machado said. "Like the other day, (McLouth) had a good jump (trying to steal) and I took the first pitch. If he has a good jump, I'm going to let the pitch go. Better to have him on second."
I asked him if he could actually see things that fast, quick enough to be able to take the pitch?
"Yeah, definitely," Machado said. "The other day, he had an amazing jump and I saw that and right off the bat I know I'm taking that pitch. You see it in your peripheral vision."
Like I said, the kid is smart and has experience beyond his years.
When Machado got the start on opening day in St. Petersburg, he became only the fourth in O's history to start on opening day at age 20 or younger. He joined Brooks Robinson in 1957 and 1958, Ron Hansen in 1958 and Boog Powell in 1962. Machado will not turn 21 until July 6.
Not surprisingly, Showalter didn't fill Machado's head with a lot of instructions or advice about what to do when batting second.
"No. You know, I'm a big leaguer and everyone here knows what they have to do in each position where you hit in the order," Machado said. "It's baseball mentality and everyone here has it. He didn't approach me. These are things you already should know."
Machado is simply impressive, in so many aspects of the game.