Machado returns with a double: 'A good day'

February 25th, 2024

PEORIA, Ariz. -- 's first swing of the spring was a Manny Machado swing if there ever was one.

Brewers starter Rob Zastryzny threw a fastball on the outside corner. Machado squared it up and sent it to the right-center-field gap, then cruised into second with a ground-rule double.

That surgically repaired right elbow?

"It feels so much better than it did last year, I'll tell you that," Machado said.

Music to the Padres’ ears.

Machado served as the designated hitter in San Diego’s 11-7 loss at Peoria Stadium on Saturday afternoon. After he doubled and scored in the first inning, he grounded out in the third -- and just like that, his 2024 Cactus League debut was done.

The Padres are slow-playing Machado this spring as he builds his way back from the right-elbow extensor tendon surgery that he underwent on Oct. 3. At the time, the Padres offered a recovery timetable of four to six months.

That put Machado’s status for Opening Day into some doubt, but he appears to be on track. At the very least, Machado might serve as DH early in the season while he continues his progression toward a full throwing workload. For now, Machado is avoiding any declarative statements.

“That’s too far ahead,” Machado said. “I’ve still got a bunch of at-bats to get through and a lot of obstacles to hurdle over. It’s a good day today. We’ll see how I bounce back tomorrow.”

That last part is key. Machado has been hitting plenty this spring. He has been throwing a decent amount, too. He says it all feels fine, for the most part. But his buildup has been regimented, with the 162-game big picture in mind.

Machado has endured lateral epicondylitis -- more commonly known as tennis elbow -- for most of the past two seasons. But it worsened significantly down the stretch last year. He played through it but was limited to DH duty over the final month and a half. Two days after the season ended, he underwent surgery.

“With every rehab program, there’s going to be some good days, there’s going to be some bad days,” Machado said. “What’s worrying is [playing] nine innings, go out there, get cold, get hot, get cold, get hot. That’s where you stick with the throwing program, build it up, make sure that your arm is strong. … That’s the next step we’re trying to take.”

For now, Machado will continue as a DH. On the hitting side, Machado hasn’t been quite as limited this spring.

“He’s gotten his cage work, he’s gotten his live BPs,” manager Mike Shildt said. “We are monitoring swings, and he is limited. But it’s not a low number. He’s been able to get a fair amount of volume.”

On Day 1, Machado certainly didn’t show any rust.

Worth noting
• Yu Darvish, who threw 32 pitches in a live setting at the Peoria Sports Complex on Friday, will make his first start of the spring on Tuesday, Shildt announced. That will come a day after Joe Musgrove takes the mound. Given the way the schedule falls, it sure looks like those two are being lined up to pitch against the Dodgers in Korea, March 20-21.

Meanwhile, right-hander Michael King will piggyback Musgrove on Monday for his first Cactus League appearance. King threw two innings in a simulated game Wednesday.

• Pedro Avila is one of a handful of contenders for the final two places in the Padres’ starting rotation. The 27-year-old right-hander didn’t exactly put his best foot forward on Saturday. Avila pitched an inning-plus and allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits.

Meanwhile, Jairo Iriarte pitched a 1-2-3 third inning. The Padres’ No. 7 prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings, Iriarte also is vying for one of those vacant rotation spots.

• For the first time, Xander Bogaerts was tested at his new position. The Padres’ newly minted second baseman made a diving attempt but couldn’t snare Sal Frelick’s leadoff single (though right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. subsequently nailed Frelick after he strayed too far from first).

Later in the game, Bogaerts snagged a Blake Perkins line drive, then flipped to second for a forceout on Brice Turang’s grounder.

• Padres top prospect Ethan Salas made his first appearance behind the plate. He made a nice catch at the screen on a popup and worked a walk.