Manny Machado bounded through the Orioles clubhouse Friday afternoon a little more energetically than usual, and with good reason.
With shortstop J.J. Hardy sitting out with a calf issue suffered the night before, Machado gets to play his natural position in the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Manager Buck Showalter said he didn't stick around to see Machado's reaction after posting the lineup card, but has a good guess of how it was received.
"I started to sneak back around the corner, but I have a sneaking suspicion he does [light up]," Showalter said. "How would you define light up?
"He might say, 'it's about time.' He knows how good we are, potentially, with J.J. and him and [second baseman Jonathan Schoop] and [first baseman Chris Davis] there. I think every once in a while, players need a little something new thrown at them. It can get kind of stale — all of us. But that's not the reason."
The reason is that utility man Ryan Flaherty, who is making his first start of the season Friday, is better at third base than shortstop. Showalter mentioned Triple-A shortstop Paul Janish as a valuable bit of depth, but since he's not on the roster, it's the team's Platinum Glove third baseman who moves to shortstop.
"There's a little different routine," Showalter said. "Bobby [Dickerson] is pretty good with that. And with [Machado], believe me. You won't have any trouble getting his attention with it. He enjoys being able to do something for the club where there's a need there."
Showalter said Machado knows Hardy, a Gold Glove winner himself, is a "tough act to follow."
"He doesn't want to step back," Showalter said. "He's playing with house money as far as going over there. It's kind of like a new toy for him. But it's different. Your clock is different."
Machado has played seven career games at shortstop, with six starts, all coming in 2015. He was drafted as a shortstop, and could probably be one of the top defenders in the league at that position, too. But with Hardy in the fold, he has settled for a pair of Gold Gloves and seemingly regular highlight-reel plays at third base.
Around the horn
- Right-hander Vance Worley will start Sunday's series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, the team announced Friday. That may change if the pending weather impacts Saturday's game.
- Left-hander Brian Matusz (back) is scheduled to make a second consecutive appearance at Double-A Bowie on Friday night, with an eye toward being activated Sunday.
- Right-hander Kevin Gausman (right shoulder tendinitis) could have his rehab start Saturday at Bowie impacted by the potential winter weather, Showalter said.
If he can't pitch Saturday, the plan is for him to get back out Sunday. Showalter said a return on April 19 is still the best-case scenario.
"There's some thought he might need another start after Frederick," Showalter said. "We're not going to get ahead of this, and we're not going to do anything that sets it back. When we get him back, we want him to be set up for the rest of the season."