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After whirlwind year, Manny Machado feels at home in Orioles clubhouse

Third baseman discusses offseason meningitis scare and report that implicated his mentor A-Rod

By Eduardo A. Encina

The Baltimore Sun

7:51 PM EST, February 15, 2013

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SARASOTA, Fla. — Around this time last year, Manny Machado spent his spring on a nomadic journey shuffling between the Orioles' minor league and major league camps. He wore No. 95. When he made appearances in the major league camp, he dressed in an auxiliary clubhouse isolated from the big league players.

But after an early-August call-up from Double-A Bowie — a move that helped propel the Orioles to the playoffs — the 20-year-old Machado is entrenched in the clubhouse this spring. No more checking the schedule daily to see in which camp he'll play.

"I'm physically a part of the team now," Machado said Friday, the Orioles' report day for position players. "I'm here in the clubhouse with the guys. I'm bonding with everybody, and I know everybody's faces. I know most of the guys here. Instead of being in the back room, I'm out here. It's just a different mentality."

Machado, the Orioles' first-round pick (third overall) in 2010, came up through the minors as a shortstop. But his immediate future lies at third base, where he fortified the Orioles' defense last year despite never really playing there before.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Friday that Machado will stay at third, joking that a line's been painted on the left side the infield dirt that Machado's been told not to pass.

His debut was fitting for a phenom: Two hits in his major league debut, two homers in his second game, three in his first four, and a bevy of sparkling plays at third, including a now-famous fake throw home on a grounder that coaxed a runner off third base in a win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Given his success in the majors last season, it would be a shock if Machado isn't the team's Opening Day third baseman, but Machado said he knows he has to win the starting job this spring.

"Nothing is given, especially with Buck," Machado said. "I know what he did the year before. He's not handing out jobs to anybody. You have to go out there and you have to earn your job."

Said Showalter: "It's not so much that I'm going to tell him that. His actions will speak so loudly that I won't be able to hear a word that he said or I say. If I feel like this has to be said, we have options at every place. I have high expectations of him bringing what he needs to bring for us to continue to think that he can contribute for us."

The organization was given scare in November when Machado suffered from a bout with viral meningitis. Machado said he's typically suffered from migraine headaches, and they got so bad that he went to the hospital on Nov. 1.

Medication for the headaches didn't work, so doctors feared he might have meningitis and performed a spinal tap.

"You want no part of that," Machado said. "When you hear spinal tap and you hear meningitis, you know this is a deadly virus you can get. There's nothing fun about that, there's nothing good about that. When I heard about that, it was one of the worst things I've ever heard."

Machado spent two days in the hospital and couldn't train for three weeks, but he said it didn't hold him back from his normal offseason routine.

Last month, a Miami New Times report alleged that New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez — who has served as sort of a mentor for Machado — received performance-enhancing drugs from a Miami-area anti-aging clinic named Biogenesis.

Machado, who has often been compared to Rodriguez as another power-hitting shortstop coming out of Miami, worked out with Rodriguez prior to the 2011 and 2012 seasons but said he never heard of the now-defunct clinic until the report surfaced.

"I've never heard of this lab ever," Machado said Friday. "I work out close by to there and I never heard of it. The guys who I work out with, we were just, 'Wow,' because we didn't know about any of this going on. We have our own little group and we work out in the football section [of the University of Miami]. We're kind of solitary from everybody. When we heard, we were just like, 'What's going on?'"

Machado said he hasn't seen Rodriguez, who is recovering from offseason hip surgery, since the Orioles' season ended against the Yankees in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.

"I haven't really kept in touch with him this offseason too much," Machado said. "He's coming back from that surgery, so he's kind of doing his own thing."

This season, Machado hopes to continue to make a name for himself. Last year was an impressive debut, but Machado now faces loftier expectations in his first full season.

"My mentality this year is to go out there and give it everything I've got," he said. "When you give 100 percent and you give it all out, everything falls into place. This is my first actual big-league camp as a big leaguer. It's going to be a good experience going in, and I'm really looking forward to it, and I'm excited about it, and I'm ready to go."

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