Knees feeling 'great,' Machado ready for Spring Training
Third baseman taking things slowly, hopes to have normal regular season
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Manny Machado arrived at Ed Smith Stadium complex Wednesday morning and greeted a few familiar faces in the Orioles' clubhouse. He walked out to the back fields, took batting practice and ran the bases. Afterward, he spoke excitedly about how long it's been since he's been so healthy.
So if Machado is at all concerned about being fully ready to start Spring Training despite a pair of surgically repaired knees, he isn't showing it.
"I hope so. I feel great," Machado said. "My knees feel great. My body feels amazing. So I don't think there's something holding me back on that perspective. But knock on wood I don't get injured or any other stuff that might pop up that happens. But I'll be ready to roll, I'll be ready to play baseball come Day 1."
Machado took part in the final day of the Orioles' voluntary minicamp Wednesday, a chance for him to work out in front of the O's coaches and trainers heading into what he hopes to be a healthy season.
"He looked good," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's got the governors off."
Machado underwent surgery on Aug. 27 to repair the medial patellofemoral ligament in his right knee. Now, his rehabilitation is essentially complete. He's hitting, running and catching grounders from his knees to work on his hand-eye coordination. The only thing left for him to do is field ground balls at third base while moving laterally.
Machado went through a similar rehab process last offseason, when he was recovering from the same injury in his left knee, and he said that experience has helped him this time around.
"I'm trying to be smart about it," Machado said. "I know come Spring Training, I'll be catching a lot and hitting a lot. I'm just being a little smarter this year with how much pressure to put on my knees, to put on my body."
Machado has one more visit pending with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the surgery, before Spring Training. Machado said he is "pretty much cleared" already and definitely ahead of where he was at this point last offseason.
"I've got two brand new knees that I could roll with and do what I've got to do," Machado said. "I think I've passed that stage of being confident. I think now it's just a matter of playing games and getting in that routine of playing every day and being on that grind just so I can get that comfort level that I need."
Machado and Showalter both cautioned that things will change for Machado once he starts playing in games, and they said he will have to adjust to a different speed of play and a more intense level of competition.
"We know where the finish line is here. It's not Feb. 20. It's April  in [St. Petersburg]," Showalter said, referring to the Orioles' Opening Day game against the Rays. "That's where the finish line is. Just try to stay away from setbacks. ... We're where we need to be."
It's been a busy offseason for Machado beyond just his recovery and preparation for the season. He spent a month after the season rehabbing in Sarasota. He took the next month off for his wedding in Paris and honeymoon. The trip took him away from the baseball field and weight room, but apparently the time off wasn't a bad thing.
"When I came back, I felt like freaking God," Machado said. "I felt awesome, I felt great, my body was feeling great. I think that's why I'm in this position now that I could do what I've been doing, because I took that little time off and kind of let my body heal completely."
Since then, Machado has been going through what he called a "normal offseason" in his hometown of Miami. That included Wednesday's trip to the Orioles' Spring Training home, where he worked alongside head athletic trainer Richie Bancells as he hit, shagged fly balls and ran the bases.
The "normal offseason" has clearly energized the 22-year-old Machado. That much was evident in the way he spoke Wednesday, more than a month before Spring Training begins. But what he's really hoping for is a normal regular season -- a normal, healthy season.
"My body feels great. My mind is clear. I'm excited to get back out there," Machado said. "I'm itching, actually. I haven't been itching like this for Spring Training since my first year of pro ball. Just excited to get the season rolling."