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Machado dazzles at short; 'It's second nature'

Padres' new third baseman filling in while Tatis sidelined
@AJCassavell
May 2, 2019

ATLANTA -- Put him anywhere on the left side of the diamond. Manny Machado is going to flash the leather no matter what. The Padres never wanted to see Machado at shortstop when they signed him to a record-setting 10-year contract this year. But a hamstring injury to rookie phenom

ATLANTA -- Put him anywhere on the left side of the diamond. Manny Machado is going to flash the leather no matter what.

The Padres never wanted to see Machado at shortstop when they signed him to a record-setting 10-year contract this year. But a hamstring injury to rookie phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. necessitated the move from third base earlier this week.

Since Machado's return to short, he has already made three outstanding plays. The latest came on Thursday afternoon in the Padres' 11-2 victory over the Braves at SunTrust Park.

"It's second nature," Machado said of playing his original position again. "It's just second nature."

With two outs in the third inning, Dansby Swanson hit a chopper past third baseman Ty France. It seemed ticketed for left field, but Machado ranged to his right and made a backhand stop on the run. He fielded the ball and threw sidearm across his body.

Right on the money.

The play evoked memories of a similar gem from Machado last month in Arizona. He made a backhand stop in foul ground at third and uncorked a 151-foot throw to Eric Hosmer at first.

The degree of difficulty on this one seemed slightly lower, but it was impressive nonetheless. Machado's exchange time was 0.7 seconds, and his throw carried 147 feet, according to Statcast. He needed every ounce of zip on the throw, too. Swanson's sprint speed was a near-elite 29.9 feet per second.

Machado also made a backhand stop in the hole to rob Matt Joyce earlier this series.

On Sunday, moments after Tatis' injury, Machado made a sliding snare up the middle to preserve a tie game in extra innings against the Nationals.

"I've played [shortstop] my entire life," Machado said. "That's where my heart has always been, and that's where I love to play."

When he signed his record-setting deal with the Padres, Machado had seemingly given up his preferred position for good. Given Tatis' skill set, Machado was more than happy to return to third base.

Since signing that deal, Machado has struggled a bit at the plate, hitting .235/.318/.391 with five homers. But with the glove, he has been as spectacular as advertised -- no matter where he plays.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.