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Orioles ponder life after Manny Machado: 'It's real'

Orioles players knew that the privilege of calling Manny Machado a teammate was coming to an end. From the time Machado was abruptly pulled from the Orioles’ final game before the All-Star break Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards, they realized Machado’s days wearing an Orioles uniform were about to end.

Still, it didn’t make it any easier to open the second half of the season Friday night Manny-less less than 48 hours after Machado was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for five prospects.

And for Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop, it meant being without his longtime teammate-turned-brother. Schoop, who played with Machado throughout the Orioles’ farm system, was suddenly without his other half.

“You know it’s going to happen, [but] when it happened, it’s real,” Schoop said. “I [think I’m] ready for it, but when it happened, you’re not ready for it because it’s real. ... Like today, I ride [by] myself to the field. Normally, it’s me and him. In the clubhouse, you always see me with him. I will never forget everything that me and him [did] together. We are still going to be friends. We’ve got to move forward. I’ve got to focus on helping my team win.”

Schoop said he cried when he received a call from Machado on Wednesday telling him he had been traded to the Dodgers. Schoop said he dropped everything and went to Machado’s house.

"Then I broke down like a kid,” Schoop said. “It was real. … I won't see him because he's a Dodger. I broke down and started to cry. I wish him the best and the emotions are still going on. …. It’s part of the business and sometimes you don’t want to believe it happened. It’s a long journey, me and him, so it comes to an end. Everything comes to an end. I know me and him are still going to be friends. I wish him the best over there.”

In parts of seven seasons with the Orioles, Machado was representative of the team’s resurgence of three trips to the playoffs from 2012 to 2016, becoming one of the game’s best young stars in the process.

When the Orioles spiraled downward this season in Machado’s final year before reaching free agency at the age of 26, it was clear the club needed to move him. But that didn’t make Friday any easier.

“I’m a little biased, but I think he’s the most talented player in baseball,” outfielder Trey Mancini said. “He’s unbelievable. … He was always the first one out when someone hit a home run, so it will be weird for all of us when a home run happens and Manny’s not on the top step. But yeah, it’s a business at the end of the day, and it was a move that had to be made.”

Tim Beckham, who shifted from shortstop to third before this season as part of a move to grant Machado’s wish to move to shortstop, will now return to shortstop.

“It’s tough losing a player like that, but this game is a business,” Beckham said. “He did a lot for this organization while he was here. … Life goes on. We have a game at 7:05 and we’re expected to be out there ready to play and expected to win the game no matter what the circumstances are. … All you can worry about is the 25 guys in this locker room and how we’re going to come together to play winning baseball.”

Machado was the best player made available leading up to the nonwaiver trade deadline — and the eight offers the Orioles received were an indication of that — but he is just the first pending free agent likely to be dealt, with closer Zach Britton likely to be moved next and possibly center fielder Adam Jones and reliever Brad Brach to follow.

“I’ve talked to all of them,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Bad players aren’t coveted. They’re great pieces. I have a lot of confidence in the front office and in what’s going on. I’m staying focused here and making sure I’m delivering what the players are in need of. The job description changes a lot and you have to change with it.”

Britton said he will take his cues on handling mounting trade talk from Machado, who dealt with the possibility of being traded since December when the Orioles openly shopped him during the winter meetings.

“You saw the way [Machado] went about his business with all the talk and that’s how you’ve got to go about it,” Britton said. “You’ve got to continue to play until they tell you you’re going somewhere else. That’s my mindset. … I think Manny set a good example about how you should handle your business throughout all that commotion and stuff.”

That talk reached a peak this week when Showalter pulled Machado out of the game Sunday after a rain delay. The Orioles cited wet field conditions for the reason, acknowledging that they didn’t want to risk losing their most precious trade piece.

“We’ve had some great times together with him here and will again,” Showalter said. “I’m happy that he’s going to a place where he’s going to enjoy his time there, however long it is. Initially [on Sunday], we were just kind of looking at each other. At first he wanted to know, ‘Where am I going?’ I said, ‘No, you’re coming out of the game.’ ‘No, where am I going?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. If I knew, Manny, I’d try to help you with it.’ ”

The days will continue to be unfamiliar as players who were foundation pieces to winning teams disappear and new younger faces replace their lockers in the clubhouse.

For now, they look around and their best player is nowhere to be found. Showalter acknowledged that he struggled with his lineup card, not knowing who would be the best option to fill Machado’s third spot in the batting order.

“It will be a little different,” first baseman Chris Davis said. “Sad to see him go and knowing we’re not going to be around him every day it’s tough. But at the same time, you’ve got to continue to move on and move forward. We wish him the best of luck, but at the same time, we know there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

And Showalter realized he’d probably have to keep a special eye on Schoop. The manager said he watched him for an inning after Machado was removed from Sunday’s game and had a long talk with him before Friday’s game.

“You’ve got to be professional in baseball,” Schoop said. “I never think I’m going to cry, but I did cry. I still feel down, especially when the memories come. It’s the same thing when somebody passes away. You know they’re going to pass away but when they pass away it still hurts you. It’s real now. He’s not here anymore. You’ve got to find a way to go through it and find a way to keep going.”

eencina@baltsun.com

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