Stephania Bell, ESPN’s injury expert and senior writer for ESPN.com, went to Miami to interview Machado just before Thanksgiving. She saw a player determined to come back strong.
“I thought he was doing very well and his range of motion was great, maybe even better than I expected,” Bell said. “He had just gotten rid of what we call a quad lag, where you can’t straighten your leg all the way. For him to have enough strength to do that was a really good sign.
“My sense from seeing him was that he can feel that it’s getting better. Initially, after surgery, it is tough. You can’t do much, it hurts and your motion is limited. When athletes get the feeling that they can see things coming along, they get excited and they realize they’ll recover and everything will be fine. He was very positive and doing very well.”
Machado underwent a procedure that included an arthroscopy and open reconstruction of the medial patellofemoral ligament. A hamstring tendon was used to graft a replacement for the ruptured ligament. He tore the ligament after stepping on first base during a Sept. 23 game against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
The full recovery can take around six months and Machado could miss opening day. Right now, there is just no way to pinpoint the date of his exact return to the O’s lineup, Bell said.
“There is a danger in trying to make projections,” she said. “It is different for different guys. Every progression right up to playing in games is predicated on how you respond to the level you were at previously.
“Even he recognizes he can’t give a specific date. But you just start moving through progressively more strengthening, balance and core work to jogging, running and then mixing in baseball activities.
“The calender can move forward or backward depending how he is progressing. No one should hold him to a specific date because it’s just not a reasonable thing to do right now.”
Fans have asked if Machado will be limited when he returns or if there will be some lasting impact of the surgery. Bell believes when Machado is clear to be a full go that he should not be limited from that point on.
“It is a little bit of a crystal ball projection, but I would think once he is back and recovered, I don’t think this is something that will cause lingering problems,” she said. “Will he take a little time to ramp up? Maybe, yes, because of not having a normal spring training. Maybe he’ll need a few extra at-bats before he looks like himself, but from a health standpoint, I don’t see any issue.
“That confidence that comes with knowing, ‘Hey my knee is solid.’ The chance of it giving out or the kneecap dislocating, that should be gone. The infrastructure has been repaired. Sometimes, you come out a little better. The rehab is so focused and you are really engaging some muscles you never thought of before and that makes you better.
“From seeing him up close, he is clearly very focused. He may be just 21, but he is very clear on what he needs to do and what his goals are and how hard he needs to work. That really struck me. He has all the ingredients for a very successful outcome.”
Click here to see the “Baseball Tonight” video and Bell’s interview with Machado from ESPN.com.