Hardly a day goes by without Orioles manager Buck Showalter being reminded in some way just how young Manny Machado, his prodigious 20-year-old third baseman, is.
And Showalter believes that it is a good thing.
“I said something the other day about some musician or an ex-player that wasn’t that removed [from today], and he had no idea what I was talking about,” Showalter said Wednesday morning. “And I went, ‘Wow, OK.’ ”
Showalter later paused for a moment before asking a room full of reporters to remind him just how young Manny Machado is, as in which year he was born. Machado was born in 1992, one of the reporters blurted out.
“God. Really? OK,” Showalter said, chuckling. “He’s younger than my son. ... He’s handled himself well for a 20-year-old. I’m not talking about on the field, either. He’s got a good support group around him.”
Well, Machado has handled himself well on the field, too, particularly at third base, a position the heralded prep shortstop didn’t start focusing on until last summer.
Before calling Machado up in August, the Orioles had Bobby Dickerson, then the organization's minor league infield coordinator, run Machado through drills at third before games at Double-A Bowie. When the call from Baltimore came, he was ready.
Machado committed five errors in 51 games last season, but he solidified that position defensively and played a big role in the club’s improvement on defense down the stretch and into the postseason.
So far this season, Machado has been excellent at third base. He has not committed an error on the team-high 55 balls that have been hit to him. He has had a role in six double plays. And it seems like every game he makes at least one impressive charge into the infield grass before throwing out a runner at first base.
Showalter was asked Wednesday about Machado playing so well at third base after being a shortstop his whole life.
“I don’t want to lessen it any, but I think people make too much of the experience at third base. There’s a lot of things about infield being infield, OK? It wasn’t like all the sudden we took him from Bowie and put him at third base. We had been doing it for two months, just nobody knew about it. ... So it wasn’t foreign to him when he got here,” he said. “Your clock is the biggest thing you’ve got to get going.”
Right now, Machado’s internal clock is tuned pretty precisely.
Showalter said Machado, who turns 21 in July, has a good sense of when to bare-hand a ball and when he has time to glove it then throw.
“Manny’s done a good job over there,” he said. “It’s impressive.”
But then Showalter is quick to remember that Machado is still young. He is not worried about Machado meeting the lofty expectations heaped on him by those outside the stone walls of the Orioles clubhouse.
Showalter knows that even if there are some growing pains for Machado this season, that if the kid shows his youth in a not-so-good way, he is still going to get the most out of his talent. And that’s a good thing.
“I just let Manny be Manny,” he said. “I don’t know what exceed or not meeting expectations means. I want him to be what he is. I just want to feel at the end of the day that he is as good as he is capable of being.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun