Showalter nearing confirmation on Machado’s 2018 position

The Orioles may not have a new player to introduce next Saturday at FanFest, though it won’t be from a lack of effort. Executive vice president Dan Duquette continues to work the phones. But manager Buck Showalter indicated that a decision on Manny Machado’s position could be revealed over the weekend.

Take the news where you can find it.

Showalter has talked about knowing in his gut whether Machado will stay at third base or move over to shortstop, but he isn’t ready to go public with it. He’s talked to Machado and Tim Beckham. I’m guessing that Machado is the shortstop, his natural position, with Beckham playing third or serving in a super-utility role.

Manny Machado hands together.jpgOne reason to hold off on making an announcement is the uncertainty at third base if Machado plays short. Also, Showalter wasn’t going to lay out a plan for Machado if the Orioles decided to trade the three-time All-Star. No need to rush it.

I’ve written that the Orioles discussed free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas, in case his market led to a reduction in years and dollars, but they don’t seem committed to pursuing him.

“But you could lose your draft pick. Would you do that?” Showalter said Thursday night on 105.7 The Fan.

“These are the things we talk about. And he walks 25 times a year. There are a few other things. Not that we haven’t talked about it.”

Beckham is working out in California with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson and he’s expected to visit third base coach Bobby Dickerson, who serves as infield instructor, before returning home and getting ready for spring training.

“He wants it,” Showalter said. “We’re going to be fine. Manny will play at either place, Tim will play wherever. I actually think Tim would be a great guy who could play somewhere every night, but I also think he could settle into an everyday role at one position. It’s a good problem to have.”

The Orioles will work out Beckham in the infield, but also hit him plenty of fly balls.

“We have,” Showalter said. “He’s done that. That’s not something that would be new to him. Tim just wants a chance to contribute and he’s going to get one.”

As the Orioles check the medicals on multiple free agent starting pitchers, they aren’t counting on anyone from the upper-tier falling into their laps. Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn aren’t walking through that door.

“Right now, what they’re asking for, I wouldn’t sign them. That’s just me,” Showalter said.

“You sign those three or four guys, that puts you in the World Series? There’s too many other things going on.”

The pursuit of a veteran catcher isn’t as important as finding starting pitchers, but it remains on the to-do list despite yesterday’s announcement that the Orioles re-signed Audry Perez to a minor league deal. They want to improve their depth at the position.

Meanwhile, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns are positioned to compete for a backup job behind Caleb Joseph.

The Orioles might have to decide whether Sisco getting regular at-bats at Triple-A Norfolk is better than part-time duty in the majors. He’s turns 23 next month and is working to improve his skills behind the plate.

“Let’s see how it plays out,” Showalter said. “In a perfect world a guy would play every day. Caleb Joseph might be that guy, Austin Wynns might be that guy. They’re going to have to earn it.

“There are some questions about every guy that’s there, every part of their game. But he’s got a good chance. I think he’s going to catch well, I think he’s going to be into the game. A rookie catcher in the American League East is a challenge, but how many left-handed hitting catchers are staying in the lineup against left-handed starters? You can count them on maybe two fingers. So, there’s a way to make it work early, but he’s going to have to earn it. He knows that.”

Wynns has the edge defensively, but Sisco is more of an offensive threat and has the higher ceiling as a top prospect in the organization.

“You know what’s interesting about Austin Wynns? This is a guy who goes down to the Dominican every year and acts like it’s not beneath him,” Showalter said. “They love him over there. And that’s unusual. A lot of guys go over there like that league’s beneath them and they stay about two weeks and they ship them home. Austin was asked to come back, he was asked to play on the All-Star team, so to speak.

“He’s figured out how to hit a little bit. I keep telling people that this is a guy who shows up late in his career. I’d keep him on the front burner. This guy’s a survivor, he’s a catch-and-throw, pitchers like throwing to him. I think he’s a very quiet competitor for a job.”

Camp competitions will include Miguel Castro’s bid to go from the bullpen to rotation.

“We’re going to look at him as a starter in spring training initially and see where it takes us. We know he can potentially do the other,” Showalter said.

“We got through the minicamp and he was on my flight to Dallas and I just kind of stayed back and watched him, how he handled himself. He’s going to stay in Dallas for a couple of weeks and then he’s going to Philadelphia for the rest of the offseason. This is a sharp kid. His English has picked up. Sometimes with the language barrier, people think a guy may not be sharp enough or whatever, but once you get the communication line open ...

“This guy wants it, too. He’s out running the steps at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. This is a guy who really wants to be good. He wants the big leagues, he wants that chance to stay there. It got taken away from him. He came to the big leagues I think way too quick (with the Blue Jays in 2015) and then he had to work his way back. And trying to work your way back in that ballpark in Colorado isn’t easy. It’s intriguing to see what level he can go to.”

The same goes for the scale. Castro needs to put on weight and keep it. He’s been sick twice, late in the season and shortly before minicamp, and it cost him valuable pounds.

Castro’s agent contacted the Orioles prior to the minicamp to make sure they weren’t alarmed by the latest weight loss.

“We had him tested,” Showalter said. “You want to make sure everything’s OK with the blood work and whatever. He’s fine.”

Showalter is flying back to Dallas today for his grandson’s christening and returns to Baltimore on Tuesday, where he’ll remain through FanFest. I tried unsuccessfully to get his confirmation on extension talks, with his contract expiring after the upcoming season.

“Why should I be any different?” Showalter said, deflecting whether he expected to manage the Orioles in 2019. “Here’s Manny, does he know where he’s going to be next year? Zach Britton, Adam Jones, Caleb Joseph, Dan, the coaches? We’re all operating on one-year deals. Who am I? I’m lucky to have that. I mean, come on.

“It’s not a topic at all at our house. I mean that. I get kind of sideways when I see these people from a distance, ‘What about next year?’ What about right now? What are we going to do to make the Orioles better and tomorrow and the next day and the next day, and something that’s going to stand the test of time? It’s pretty selfish that that should be some focus doing the baseball season and you’re the only one going through that.

“You know what you’re doing next year? People sitting at home don’t want to hear that. So there’s my answer.”

Note: Left-hander Tucker Baca, a 12th-round pick in 2017 out of St. Katherine (Calif), has been suspended 60 games after testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The suspension will be effective at the start of the 2018 GCL season.

Baca registered a 4.50 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in 13 relief appearances. He allowed six earned runs (eight total) and 15 hits in 12 innings with seven walks, 10 strikeouts and six hit batters.

Baca began his collegiate career at Arizona State University.

Infielder Steve Wilkerson was suspended for 50 games last month after testing positive for an amphetimine. He had a shot at the utility job.

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