The decision to call up top position prospect Manny Machado about eight months ahead of schedule could mean a number of things, but this is what Orioles fans should read into it:

The Orioles just decided that they are in the pennant race to stay.

Not the wild card race. If they were just interested in poking their nose into the playoffs with a one-game play-in at the end of the season, they would not have accelerated the development of one of their two most valuable minor league players. This is about catching the Yankees and winning the American League East, which suddenly seems possible after a five-game winning streak that has closed their divisional deficit to 4 1/2 games.

It should not go unnoticed that the O's also promoted top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy to Double-A Bowie last night. There have never been any announced plans to pitch him in the major leagues this year, but club officials have been hinting at a possible late-season call-up since spring training.

Machado is expected to start at third base tonight in the series opener against the Kansas City Royals. It is not his primary position, but he has been working out there recently and -- if he's ready for prime time -- could complete the important job of shoring up the Orioles' sketchy infield defense.

Bottom line: These were already exciting times at Camden Yards, and they just got a little more exciting.