SARASOTA, Fla. - Manny Machado walked onto the Ed Smith Stadium field this morning in his Dominican Republic uniform, performed a series of stretching exercises, played catch with José Bautista - hey, Jonathan Schoop isn’t here - embraced his father and stepped into the batting cage.
Sort of business as usual except for the jersey and cap and his teammates.
Machado is back at third base after playing shortstop for the Orioles in seven exhibition games. No word on where he’ll start Wednesday afternoon against the Pirates in Bradenton or in the World Baseball Classic.
Manager Tony Peña is taking it the clichéd one day at a time.
“Today, yeah, he’s going to be at third base. Tomorrow, I don’t know,” Peña said.
“Players said, ‘Do with me whatever you want. I’m ready to go.’ We have (Jean) Segura and we have Reyes, and also we’re going to have Adrián Beltré, who’s not here yet, but he’s going to be here.
“I want to play everybody. I want to make everybody feel that they’re part of this team. They’re here for a reason. They’re starting players on their ballclubs. I would not hesitate to do anything.”
Machado didn’t provide a scouting report on Orioles starter Kevin Gausman.
“No, no, we’re just going to go out and play the games,” Peña said. “There is no time for reports right now. I just want them to go out and have fun.”
Having so many marquee players also challenged Peña to decide which one to slot lower in the order.
“Oh yes, that is a challenge,” he said with a laugh. “It’s something that we have been working on. We tried to pull all those guys together and see how we’re going to do it. Soon we’re going to come up with a decision on what type of lineups we’re going to have.”
Nelson Cruz is batting sixth behind José Reyes, Machado, Robinson Canó, José Bautista and Carlos Santana. Need more proof that this team is loaded?
“The one good thing about this group is they just want to be here,” Peña said. “They come to you and they say, ‘Do with me whatever you want to do. I just want to be here.’ And I think it’s an honor to be part of this team and everybody realized that. He’s hitting sixth today, but that doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind.”
The Dominican ran the table in 2013 while winning the WBC.
“It’s a totally different team than we had before,” Peña said. “When we had the meeting, I told those guys, ‘Make sure you guys enjoy yourselves. Make sure you enjoy each other.’ Because every year it’s going to be a different group.
“That group we had in the past in 2013 was unique. I don’t think that was a better team than what we have right now. On paper, I think we have a better team now. But chemistry, that’s big in this game. If they go out and play the game together, I know it can happen again, but No. 1, I want them to concentrate and play the game and make sure they enjoy themselves.”
Manny Machado chats with his father as he prepares to play for the Dominican Republic against the Orioles.
Machado hugs his father before taking batting practice with the Dominican Republic.