PHOENIX -- There were likely audible gasps around living rooms and sports bars throughout San Diego when Manny Machado fell to the ground then clutched his left ankle in pain during the Padres' June 19 game at Coors Field.
Fans and the Padres may have feared the worst in that moment. But what was Machado thinking?
"What did you think?" Machado asked, turning the question around on a reporter on Tuesday.
That the third baseman could potentially be out for an extended period.
"So then think about that 10 times. That’s what I thought,” Machado said.
For the first time since spraining the ankle, Machado discussed his status with the media prior to San Diego’s 7-6 loss in the series opener vs. Arizona at Chase Field. The third baseman was out of the lineup for the eighth consecutive game, but he also remained off the injured list as the Padres continued to await his return.
It seemed like an IL stint was inevitable when Machado first sustained the injury. But he realized the next day that he may be able to avoid his first trip to the injured list since 2014.
“I think the biggest test was the next day, for myself, if I was going to be able to walk,” Machado said. “I was able to put some pressure on it. It wasn’t 100 percent, but I was able to put some pressure on it. That was a good indication that the ankle’s healing pretty well.”
Since then, Machado has continued to progress. He said the ankle feels better every day. Tuesday brought another step in the right direction, as he ran the bases pregame and fielded ground balls -- not just ones that were hit directly at him, either. He moved around to scoop them up, another encouraging sign.
Machado did similar work during Monday’s off-day, according to manager Bob Melvin, who didn’t rule out Machado appearing as a pinch-hitter during the quick two-game series in Arizona, although he didn’t appear in Tuesday’s opener. Machado has been hitting and fielding, but Melvin believes the last thing the infielder will feel fully comfortable with is his running.
“I think each and every day he gets that much better,” Melvin said. “Every day we kind of play it by ear and see how he responds to the workload. But so far, so good, as far as his progression goes.”
Machado doesn’t think there’s any particular “test” he needs to pass in order to get back onto the field during a game and re-enter the starting lineup. In the meantime, he’s just focused on getting healthy, like he’s been for much of his 11-year MLB career.
Over his first three seasons with the Padres from 2019-21, he played in all but 15 games. He appeared in 66 of San Diego’s first 68 games in ‘22.
If it was October, things might be different right now. Machado may try to talk his way into the action.
“If I had to, if it was the World Series, I’d probably be out there the next day,” Machado said. “Probably limping around and not really being able to do much, but I’d be out on that field with the jersey on and my uniform on.”
In Machado’s absence, the Padres’ offense has been inconsistent. They scored 10 runs during the four-game series against the Phillies over the weekend.
On Tuesday, all of their six runs occurred in the fifth inning, including a two-run homer by Nomar Mazara and a three-run double from Jorge Alfaro, who exited in the ninth inning with right knee inflammation.
“We felt like we should have had that game wrapped up a little bit earlier, we just didn’t,” Melvin said. “Those games you think that we have in hand -- I’m not saying there’s any letdown -- you always want to add on. But you feel pretty good about six runs and going out there and playing some defense and winning the game.”
The Padres will feel even better about such situations when Machado is back.
But he knows it’s for the best that he takes the recovery of his ankle sprain as slowly as necessary. And when he gets cleared to go, he’ll be ready to help San Diego try to continue its march toward the postseason.
“I’m trying to be smart with the whole situation. We’re playing it for the long haul,” Machado said. “Anything we could possibly do to not really delay what we’ve been doing going forward, I think that’s probably the best. Obviously, Bob understands that. I think our training staff understands that as well.
“They’ve been doing a pretty good job with keeping me in the right direction, and at this point, I think that’s the best for everyone. When that time is, that time is. And you’ll know when I’m out on that field.”