Machado steps up in first start at SS
Usual third baseman starts double play, shows off arm in new position
BALTIMORE -- In the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, Manny Machado managed a backhand grab deep in the hole and threw out Rene Rivera on a close play at first base to rob him of a single.
It was the first time Machado had started at shortstop in his Major League career. He responded by playing flawless defense and hitting a pair of singles.
Still, any excitement about being back at his natural position was tempered by the 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay -- Baltimore's 11th setback in the past 12 games.
"It came back pretty easy," Machado said. "I've been playing that my whole life. I didn't play third base until I got up here. It just came natural. I was out there just trying to make the plays, and as the game went on, I just started feeling more comfortable out there."
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said Machado typically moves to shortstop from third base on an infield shift. With regular shortstop J.J. Hardy on the disabled list with a left groin strain, it provided the perfect opportunity for Machado to get back to his old position -- even if it is short term.
"Manny was really energized by the opportunity," Showalter said. "I can tell you he was excited about it for the right reasons. Something where we were trying to give a little bit different look tonight. I thought he handled himself well. He made a really good play over there in the hole and started a good double play with [Jonathan Schoop]. I think about all the things those two guys have been through together, and to get an opportunity to play up the middle together tonight. I thought he handled himself well. He had some really good at-bats, too."
Machado also moved to shortstop in the 12th inning against the Twins on Aug. 23. He made a critical error that eventually helped the go-ahead run score. That miscue also played into Showalter giving him another opportunity at short.
Machado's move to short was not the only strategy Showalter used to try and breathe new life into his team. All three catchers were in the lineup as Matt Wieters played first, Steve Clevenger was the DH and Caleb Joseph took over his regular spot behind the plate.
None of the moves, however, were particularly effective, as Baltimore didn't manage a run off Rays starter Chris Archer through his six innings. An RBI single by Adam Jones off Matt Andriese ended a string of 19 consecutive scoreless innings. Clevenger also hit a two-run single.
"We're just one hit, one out away," Machado said. "It's going to come. It's going to come. We're just going to focus, pitch by pitch. I think that's where we're going right now. Just stay in the moment, don't try to do too much … battle every out, just live in the moment, live by that pitch, see how the results come out."
For Wieters, it provided another opportunity to be in the lineup. He underwent Tommy John surgery last season and the Orioles have been careful not to overwork him behind the plate. Wieters has taken some reps at first base and already made two appearances there this season (June 16 and Aug. 1). As a result, it was not that big of adjustment, and he made several solid plays at first, including a nice scoop on a throw by Machado.
"When I DH between catching, one the the things I kind of miss is being out there on the field and being able to really play the full nine innings," Wieters said. "I'm excited to play defense as well as offense. We know we have a month-plus to play some good baseball and turn it around."