NEW YORK - A handful of New York reporters congregated near Manny Machado’s locker this afternoon in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, waiting for his arrival and switch from street clothes to batting practice attire.
Machado eventually stood up, turned toward them and faced the music. He easily could have named the tune.
The Yankees were one of the clubs engaged in winter trade talks with the Orioles regarding Machado and are forecast as the early favorites to sign him as a free agent following the season. Pinstripes are painted on him before he sheds the black and orange.
The latest Machado interview sounded like the others. He wants to keep playing shortstop moving forward and he isn’t distracted by the trade and free agent rumblings. And making his first stop in the Bronx this season isn’t a special occasion worthy of the attention.
“We’ve been coming here for seven years. It shouldn’t be different,” he said.
“I like coming here and playing baseball. Who doesn’t like to play baseball? Come here, win a couple games and put yourselves in a good situation. So, we’ll see where it goes.”
And where Machado eventually winds up.
“My future is looking pretty good,” he said. “Just try to go out there and stay healthy and play baseball. Just got to put up numbers and try to win games for my team and be the best person I can be out there on the field and do everything possible as a baseball player to contribute to the ballclub and take the team to the postseason.”
Machado said the trade rumors were out of his control. He shrugged them off in the same manner as during his first interview after reporting to spring training.
“I can control my work and what I’ve got to do to prepare myself for the season,” he said. “What happened in the offseason is way out of my control. I got ready for this year, I did everything I could do to prepare myself. Now it’s just, move on forward and see what happens.”
Machado already stated that the switch to shortstop isn’t a temporary move, that he intends to stay at the position beyond the 2018 season. Teams have been put on notice.
“I moved over for a reason. I made a commitment to it and I’m going to stick to it,” he said.
Asked again whether he’d return to third base, Machado said, “I made the commitment to go to short. I think moving forward I’d like to stay there. This isn’t just a move, like you guys like to say, for money purposes. I’m going to get mine. Everybody’s going to get theirs. (Shortstop) is where my heart is, where my heart has always been, so that’s where I want to be.”
Machado delivered another jab, nothing that would leave a mark, when asked about Major League Baseball reprimanding Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in spring training for his playful attempts to recruit Machado.
“It’s just a situation that was blown out of proportion and it’s just how the New York media is,” he said. “He’s a great kid and he meant well. It was just chit chat that you mess around with, just like everyone else messing around with everything. Just blown out of proportion.”
Machado also said he’s been enjoying the season and repeated how he’s maintaining his focus.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “Just got to keep working and keep getting better every day. This game is about getting better every day, so I’ll go out there and do everything possible I can do to prepare for a game. If you don’t get better every day, I don’t think we’ve done anything that day, so just go out there and do everything possible to get ready for a game and work as hard as I can.”
The offense perked up during the last two games in Houston, though the Orioles’ losing streak reached five games.
“It’s still early, it’s still early,” Machado warned. “Everyone’s starting to click together. There were a couple guys who were hurt who are coming back in the lineup, so it’s just a matter of time before we start clicking and everyone starts clicking together and the pitching staff is better than what’s been happening. And we’re a better offense than how we’ve been playing.
“It’s just a matter of just letting it roll. I think we’ve still got a lot of time to ... what is it, five games, six games? There’s nothing to be concerned about. I think we’re going to be just fine.”