After playing a starring role in the World Baseball Classic, Manny Machado returned to Orioles camp Wednesday ready to return his focus to preparing for the upcoming season.
Machado, who arrived back in Sarasota late Monday night, won't return to the Orioles' starting lineup until the team's next home game Saturday against the Minnesota Twins, but he took part in Wednesday's workout and pregame activities.
The WBC put the Orioles third baseman on an international stage, where the 24-year-old stood out with both his bat and glove on a stacked Dominican Republic team that was eliminated with a 6-3 loss to Team USA on Saturday night in San Diego.
"It was an exciting time at the World Baseball Classic and something I'll never forget," Machado said. "It was a great experience, great memories taken from that. But now I'm excited to get back and try to create some new ones this year with the team that we've got here and everybody that we have. I know [manager] Buck [Showalter] and the coaches have been telling me that everything's been going pretty well, that the team looks pretty good and it's going to be a fun one, so I'm excited to be back and excited to be with the team. Looking forward to this year."
Machado played every inning of the Dominican Republic's six games in nine days at the WBC, including three games at Miami's Marlins Park that included two sellout crowd and a raucous pro-Dominican crowd. With every game holding huge implications, he was thrown into a much different atmosphere than he would usually see in mid-March. But Machado said he believes he's better prepared for the season having participated in the WBC.
"I got into a little more game speed and trying to get used to the runners and trying to get that timing down, the pitching timing down, being on your feet for nine innings," Machado said. "I got that out of the way. Nothing can really prepare you for April. April is an exciting day, exciting for baseball. We work so hard to get to that situation, to get there. I think you can never prepare for April, but I think I'm a little ahead of the game."
When asked if he would play in the WBC again – commissioner Rob Manfred said this month that Major League Baseball is committed to the event's future, though there have been rumbles that this might be the last WBC – Machado quickly said "Sign me up."
"One hundred percent. Sign me up … right now," Machado said. It was just unbelievable, the whole experience. The fans that were out there, San Diego, Miami, they came to watch baseball. ... They were into the game, every pitch, every moment, supporting us, and I think we thrive off of that. If it was up to me, I would do it every year and go and try and represent our country the best way we can. Sign me up for the next one."
Machado said he planned to watch the tournament's final game Wednesday night and root for his Orioles teammate Adam Jones on Team USA, even though it was Jones who robbed Machado of a home run in a 6-3 loss that eliminated the Dominican from the WBC.
"It was one of the best catches I've ever seen him make or ever seen being made," Machado said. "It was unbelievable. Unfortunately, he robbed me, but better him than somebody else. But I'm going to be watching him tonight, rooting for him doing what he needs to do. I know he's enjoyed definitely the whole experience and enjoyed everything about it. At the end of the day we're all trying to represent ourselves and represent our country the right way and I think that's what we did out there."