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Machado gets settled: 'I'm loving being here'

Third baseman predicts 'something special' ahead for Padres
@AJCassavell
March 8, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. – It has been two weeks since Manny Machado first buttoned a No. 13 Padres uniform at his introductory press conference. He says it's finally starting to feel normal. After a fortnight in Padres camp, Machado is up to speed on the baseball field. He has played in

PEORIA, Ariz. – It has been two weeks since Manny Machado first buttoned a No. 13 Padres uniform at his introductory press conference. He says it's finally starting to feel normal.

After a fortnight in Padres camp, Machado is up to speed on the baseball field. He has played in four games, and he has checked a number of boxes -- first hit, first run, first extra-base hit and, finally, his first chance at third base (which, strangely, didn’t happen until his fourth game).

Perhaps more important, Machado finds himself ingrained in the day-to-day workings of the Padres’ recent overhaul. He routinely takes batting practice in a group that features fellow veterans Ian Kinsler and Eric Hosmer, but also infield prospects Luis Urías and Fernando Tatis Jr.

There's no better indicator of the club's direction than that BP group -- immensely talented youth, mixed with experienced external pieces, brought on board to help push the Padres ever-closer to contention. As he mulled his decision to sign, Machado did his homework on the long-term vision of general manager A.J. Preller. Now he has seen it in action.

"It's a long-term commitment, so you do your research on everything," said the Padres' 300-million-dollar man. "But as much as you see and ask questions, you can never know what you're getting yourself into until you're here. I wanted to see it for myself and get the feel for it for myself.

"Now I'm here, and I know I made the right decision. There's enough talent here, and we're heading in the right direction. It's going to be something special here. If everyone comes in here and does their part, we could definitely do some special things."

There were, of course, 300 million reasons for Machado to choose San Diego. His 10-year contract was the most lucrative for a free agent in baseball history until Bryce Harper broke that record. But Machado makes it clear that the situation was right for him. And the reasons aren't entirely financial -- he wants to win.

To the untrained eye, San Diego wouldn’t seem like the obvious destination. But Machado scoffs at the notion that the next 10 years could be anything like the last 10. He cites the top-ranked farm system, the burgeoning offense and the young pitchers who will arrive in the next year or two.

"What they've done the last couple years to rebuild and get their feet under them again, it was pretty impressive," Machado said. "Props to A.J. and the staff. He has an eye for talent. The talent he's drafted, the talent he's signed, the talent he's traded for -- they're all here on this ballclub for a reason. They're going to make us one of the best teams in baseball. Our goal is to bring a championship to San Diego."

Admittedly, that's an ambitious goal for 2019. But Machado is in San Diego for the long haul. That top-ranked farm system is going to pay big league dividends soon, beginning with the arrivals of Tatis and Urias, whom Machado has seen up close for the first time this spring.

"They obviously have talent, but it's more than that," Machado said. "They want to be out there, they want to win, they want to get better. It's been pretty impressive to watch them play, what they bring to the table, what types of players they are. They've got a bright future ahead of them as long as they keep that hunger in them."

Machado is there to make sure they do. He credited shortstop J.J. Hardy for nurturing him as a wide-eyed young infielder in Baltimore. Now, he says he'd like to do the same for Tatis and Urias.

His day-to-day habits have clearly rubbed off. Manager Andy Green noted the intense purpose to every Machado batting practice session. In that regard, it’s no coincidence he’s hitting with the youngsters.

"It's like going to class every day," Urias said. "There's so much you can learn just from watching him."

Soon enough, those two will be sharing an infield in San Diego. Eventually, Tatis will join them. A slew of other talented youngsters will filter in across the diamond.

Machado knew all this when he signed, and two weeks later he's more convinced than ever.

“I’m loving being here,” Machado said. "I really think it's going to be special here."

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