Third baseman hasn't had major setbacks with knee, but O's want him fully healthy
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter did away with the deadline that had been on Manny Machado's mind, saying Sunday that Baltimore's All-Star third baseman will not be ready for Opening Day.
Showalter maintained that Machado hasn't had any setbacks involving his surgically repaired left knee. But Opening Day is eight days away, and the 21-year-old Gold Glove Award winner hasn't played in any games this spring.
So, Showalter spoke with Machado during the fifth inning of Sunday's game at Ed Smith Stadium about beginning the season on the 15-day disabled list, staying behind and continuing to work his way back in Florida until he's ready to begin a Minor League rehab assignment.
"I think that the thought of him starting the season on the active list is probably not realistic," Showalter said. "I don't think that's a big revelation to anybody, but it will probably be portrayed as such.
"We knew. He knew. He knows the level that he has to be at to perform in the big leagues, and we want to get it right the first time. He knows how much all of our guys mean to our club, so when we get him, we want to get him right. ... This isn't a failure by any stretch. I still think you're going to get him some time in April."
Machado will be eligible to come off the disabled list on April 6, but it seems likely that the third baseman is still several weeks away from returning.
As recently as Saturday, Machado wouldn't rule out the possibility that he'd be in Baltimore's Opening Day lineup. Showalter said Sunday's decision wasn't a result of anything in particular that happened over the past few days. It was just time to relieve Machado of the pressure that he could rush to break camp, thus allowing him to focus more on getting fully healthy for the remainder of a long season.
"I think he's going to play a lot of games this year for us," Showalter said. "I like where he is. If you had told me coming into the spring that this is where we'd be with the surgical site and everything, I would have been fine with it."
Machado, who had left the Orioles' Spring Training complex by the time Showalter broke the news to reporters, suffered the injury on an awkward landing at first base on Sept. 23 and underwent surgery on Oct. 14. He was held back a few days by a mild strain in his left calf and scar tissue in his knee, then visited Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the operation, on Thursday and was cleared to resume all baseball activities.
Initially, Machado was expected to be back on the field and ready to go within four to six months of the surgery, so anything on the back end of that would have put a return by Opening Day in jeopardy. The Orioles realized that all along, but Showalter said they "didn't want to throw a wet blanket on it, because you don't want to underestimate the human body, especially Manny's.
"He'll be fine," Showalter added. "You can get on with knowing what the end game is and knowing what you've got ahead of you. He needs to know, too. Think about it. He's walking in here, and trucks are leaving for Baltimore and players are getting ready and he's just looking forward to taking infield [during batting practice] and that's it, just standing around watching the game."
That had been the hardest part of Spring Training for Machado, which is why Showalter approached Machado on Sunday about officially ruling out the start of the season. The only thing worse than missing Machado for a few weeks would be a setback that could keep him off the field for a much longer period.
"He's miserable in a lot of ways," Showalter said. "It's the first time in his life at 21, 22, he's looking out there and watching people play baseball. Quite frankly, he likes our guys, but he's tired of watching."
"I know he wants to [play on Opening Day], but maybe he can't. You've got to get fully healthy," added infielder Jonathan Schoop. "He's missed some time in Spring Training. Spring Training's pretty big. .... He will be ready. I don't know when. Maybe April. But he'll be ready."
Showalter said the Orioles will look at the schedules for Triple-A Norfolk, Double-A Bowie and Class A Frederick to plot out a rehab assignment for Machado, and he could continue his rehab "inside our locker room," Showalter said. The manager expects that Machado's recovery will come along quickly as soon as he gets back in games.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette said through a team spokesman that he'll address Machado's situation on Monday. Showalter said he discussed the decision to make Sunday's announcement with Machado and head trainer Richie Bancells, but he hadn't run it by anyone in the front office.