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Machado makes SD debut, ready to win in '19

New Padres third baseman plays 3 innings in first spring game
@goodforball
March 2, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ballplayers on losing teams talk about hope. Members of successful clubs revel in desire. Manny Machado placed himself squarely in the latter category Saturday. After playing three innings in his Cactus League debut for the Padres in a 7-6 win over a Giants split squad, Machado, San

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ballplayers on losing teams talk about hope. Members of successful clubs revel in desire. Manny Machado placed himself squarely in the latter category Saturday.

After playing three innings in his Cactus League debut for the Padres in a 7-6 win over a Giants split squad, Machado, San Diego's prized free-agent acquisition, devoted most of his interview session with the media to the subject of winning.

Machado knows that fans and teammates alike expect him to deliver on the 10-year, $300 million contract he received from the Padres, who have endured eight consecutive losing seasons. After his Friars debut -- he went 0-for-1 with a popup and a walk -- the third baseman sounded eager to join a host of talented, energetic teammates who appear poised to improve.

Batting second in a lineup that bore a mild resemblance to the one San Diego could use on Opening Day, the Padres amassed four second-inning runs against Giants starter Drew Pomeranz.

"We can play. We can play," Machado said. "Like I said, we can surprise a lot of people. We've got thumpers one through eight."

Padres manager Andy Green particularly appreciated his infield. From left to right, it featured Machado, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (the No. 2 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline) and All-Stars Ian Kinsler at second base and Eric Hosmer at first.

"Game-changers all across the diamond," Green said.

Few Major Leaguers can change a game like Machado, who has averaged 36 home runs and 96 RBIs over the past four seasons. He understands that he personifies the dawn of a new era in San Diego.

"All you need is confidence in this game," Machado said. "I think the organization has put its best foot forward, and it's given the guys a lot more confidence to go out here and know that this is not going to be a losing situation. We're going to try to win, maybe not the [National League West] division, but we're going to fight for a Wild Card spot. You never know what can happen in baseball."

Well, why not unseat the Dodgers as division champs?

"We could do it. I'm not saying we can't. But they're a great team," said Machado, who finished the 2018 season with Los Angeles after spending the previous 6 1/2 years with Baltimore. "They've won the division the last [six] years. We know we really have our work cut out for us. But I'm confident in the guys that we have here. If we all stick together and stay on the same game plan, we could be dangerous."

Machado welcomed the opportunity to play at game speed, albeit briefly. He had been limited to workouts on auxiliary diamonds since Feb. 23, two days after he signed with the Padres.

"It's a lot different," Machado said, noting that he "just missed" crushing Pomeranz's pitch that yielded the popup in the first. "You can never practice game speed. You can do the best you can to make it as close as possible. But the game's the game, always."

As Machado spoke, he still wore his glove on his left hand and carried three bats in an equipment bag strapped over his right shoulder. Clearly, he was ready for more baseball.

Endorsement for Tatis

Machado delivered an unsolicited endorsement for Tatis to make San Diego's Opening Day roster.

"Hopefully he breaks camp with us and he's our shortstop," Machado said. "He's a baller. He can play a little bit. But don't put that out there too much. I don't want him to blow up."

Green acknowledged that Tatis "has a chance" to begin the season in the Majors, but revealed nothing more than that. Luis Urias is the favorite to start at shortstop if Tatis doesn’t.

Up next

The Padres travel to play the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. PT. Chris Paddack, San Diego’s No. 5 prospect, is scheduled to start with right-handers Phil Maton and Carlos Torres and lefties Robbie Erlin and Kyle McGrath also listed to pitch.

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.