It's easy to forget how young Manny Machado still is. But entering his sixth big league season, the Orioles' third baseman has become a veteran of sorts in Baltimore's clubhouse, doling out advice, mentoring younger players and boasting an impressive resume at the mere age of 24."Especially with Manny, I
It's easy to forget how young Manny Machado still is. But entering his sixth big league season, the Orioles' third baseman has become a veteran of sorts in Baltimore's clubhouse, doling out advice, mentoring younger players and boasting an impressive resume at the mere age of 24.
"Especially with Manny, I feel like he's matured more and more," said Machado's close friend, second baseman Jonathan Schoop. "He's become a leader a little bit more, done a lot of talking to the young guys. He's young too, but he's talking with guys who haven't made it to the big leagues, trying to help them.
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"Since he got called up, he's been one of the best third basemen in baseball. When I was over there [in the overflowing spring clubhouse] I didn't want to go past [where the Major League side is], but now some rookie guys go past there and Manny goes and talks to them. And they're like, 'Ah, Manny talks to me! I feel so much more relaxed now.'"
At an age when a lot of guys are still trying to figure out the Majors, Machado isn't just comfortable: He keeps getting better. The 2013 American League Platinum Glove winner and three-time All-Star set career highs in homers and RBIs last year and has finished in the top five for AL Most Valuable Player voting the past two seasons.
Machado, who batted .294/.343/.533 with 37 homers and 96 RBIs last year, can become a free agent after the 2018 season.
But the only thing the infielder, set to leave for the World Baseball Classic in a few days, wants to talk about is winning. Not personal achievements or goals, things that veteran shortstop J.J. Hardy told Machado and Schoop long ago to not bother with. Focus on being healthy all year, on being there for your team, Hardy preaches -- one of a multitude of lessons the infield's elder statesman has stressed to the young duo.
It has stuck with Machado, who made it clear in his initial spring interview he didn't want to talk about his pending free agency or reiterate his hopes of staying here. He wants to focus on winning now, perhaps more than ever, as the Orioles know the window with this current group is shrinking.
"We have a taste of what it feels like to win and what it takes to get there," said Machado, who speaks with more confidence and poise than ever. "I want to say we have the best group of guys in there to try to make that push."
A major part of the Orioles' recent resurgence, Machado had a taste of the playoffs immediately when he came up in late 2012, as a wide-eyed teen not far removed from being an extra body for road spring games.
"A few days ago he looks around goes, 'Hey, remember when we were over there?'" Schoop said, gesturing to the overflow clubhouse for the just-in-case guys. "Remember when we used to go on the road and just sit on the bench? Time goes quick. But some things don't change. We still know we have to work hard, we still have the mindset that we have to work hard to get to where this team wants to go."
Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.