"Still getting better"

Hardy, who shares the left side of the infield with Machado, paid his teammate one of the ultimate compliments defensively, saying he believes Machado is the best third baseman in the game.

"I don't think there's anyone better than him at third base," Hardy said. "I think he's still getting better. From Day One, his ability allowed him to be the best third baseman in the game, I think. And now, he's learning the position more, where to play certain players. There are so many times when there's a lefty and it's a good chance he's not going to hit the ball to third base and Manny started moving back toward shortstop. Not many third basemen do that. It's just nice. I can go play more up the middle and it just makes it easier for everyone. I don't think the coaches are having to tell him to move much. Maybe early they had to move him, but not they're not having to do too much."

Machado, a shortstop coming up through the minors, is often seen gleaning advice from Hardy, a first-time Gold Glove winner last season. And Hardy said he's become a better defender because Machado's range and awareness allow Hardy to play more up the middle.

"I don't know how many backhand plays I've had to make this year compared to how many I had to make in the past," Hardy said. "He gets to everything, so I play a little more up the middle. It's impressive. It's a lot of fun to play the left side with him. We're both pretty familiar with everything we do, and everything we can do. He knows where I'm at and I know where he's at. If there's a ball that's routine to me but he could come get it, he's not going to come flying across to get it."

It's only been one year, but as Machado grinds through the dog days of August in his first full season, it's clear that he's already a smarter and more conscientious player than when he first came up.

"Pace yourself and find a routine," Machado said. "It's a long season. A lot of coaches and players here, they tell me don't go out there and take 100 swings. You've got to pace yourself. This is a game of adjustments. You have to make adjustments day to day. If you don't adjust, it's going to come back and bite you in the [butt]. It's just about finding a routine and keep battling."

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard


LOOKING BACK

Manny Machado made his big league debut Aug. 9, 2012 against the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards, a game the Orioles lost, 8-2. He batted ninth and grounded out to short in his first plate appearance in the second inning against left-hander Will Smith. Machado's first hit was a triple in the fifth inning. "Oh man, it was a load off my shoulder," Machado said after the game. "I got my first hit, it was a triple and I'm just happy to get a hit." The following night he homered twice in a 7-1 win.