BOSTON -- After doing sliding drills Friday for the first time since offseason knee surgery, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will see his first game action Saturday at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla.
Machado is scheduled to play five innings at third base, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. His playing time will grow each game until he is ready to go on a minor league rehab assignment. Showalter wouldn’t say how many games Machado would need to play in extended spring training.
“He’s doing it right,” Showalter said. “He obviously wants to get here as soon as he can, but one of the things I told him today, 'if it takes five or six days down there before he starts feeling ready to play games, start that clock ticking, and that’s fine.' That’s why I think it’s very important that when he and we make that step to whether it might be to a minor league affiliate that he’s [ready].”
On Friday, Machado slid, ran the bases, took batting practice and infield practice in Sarasota. Showalter said Machado has had between 17 and 20 at-bats through simulated games.
“Like I told him today, he’s gonna take what he needs there,” Showalter said. “I’m not going to say a minimum or this or a maximum of that. It’s just see how he feels.”
Once Machado is sent on a minor league rehab assignment, he will have a 20-day window to play there before the team would need to activate him. However, he might not need that entire time.
“I’m hopeful,” Showalter said. “I’m going to let it run its course. I’m not going to put any this day or that day exactly. There’s some unknown there. So let just let him get through some days there at extended spring and see there we are.”
Showalter said the club hasn't determined to which minor league affliate Machado will report. Showalter said Machado won't spend the entire assignment at a low-level affliate because he needed to get a feel for game speed comparable to what he will see upon his return to the majors.
"He's been doing just about every baseball activity, so it's just the speed of the game a little bit," Showalter said. "That's why I do think it is important that he get to a place where the game's really sped up."
Friday’s sliding drill was the final activity Machado had to perform before being cleared for extended spring training games. A calf strain set him back during spring training.
Machado’s greatest challenge will be making routine acts -- like sliding -- second nature again, but Showalter said Machado won’t have to do a certain amount of sliding or base running before going on a rehab assignment.
“That will all happen naturally,” Showalter said. “It’s just so he’s not thinking about it, and he’s just doing it naturally. Is this going to hurt? Is that going to hurt? Is this going to be a problem? When he gets to a point when he’s just thinking, ‘where am I going to play a hitter?’ Who is covering second base, getting a sign, where it’s just the natural flow of the game -- he’ll know when that comfort level is.”
Orioles medical coordinator Dave Walker had been supervising Machado’s rehab in Sarasota, but several more high-ranking members of the organization will have their eyes on Machado’s progress in games.
Player development director Brian Graham and minor league infield instructor Dave Anderson will oversee Machado’s extended spring games. And once Machado goes on a minor league rehab assignment, vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson will supervise Machado’s progress.
“I think he’s been pretty frank with us, and honest,” Showalter said of Machado. “I like when he seems to kind of slow something down a little bit. It shows you some maturity, and I think with someone around him that knows what it’s like when it’s right [is good], because he’s not going to [try to fool] us. He’s going to be real honest about this. He knows how important this is to us and his career.
Showalter said the close relationship Machado has with Graham and Anderson will help.
“Brian’s been with him through thick and thin, and so has Brady, so they’ll be able to read him pretty well,” he said. “They’ll know if it’s right or not right. They can be a little too honest sometimes.”