FORT MYERS, FLA. — Orioles top hitting prospect Manny Machado made his first start in an exhibition game Saturday against the Boston Red Sox, batting ninth and playing shortstop. The 19-year-old was even more excited when he found out he'd be facing right-hander Josh Beckett, who was a star with the Florida Marlins while Machado was growing up in Miami.
"At first, it's great to see this guy pitch. I have seen him since I was a little kid," said Machado, who was the Orioles' first-round pick (third overall) in 2010. "And now to be facing him at a young age, it's a great pleasure. And hopefully I'll keep seeing him down the road."
Machado faced Beckett just once, grounding out to shortstop on five pitches.
"He kind of fooled me on the first pitch," said Machado, who has one hit in eight at-bats this spring. "He threw me a changeup, and I was thinking fastball. After that, I was just going up there and seeing the ball and hitting it."
Machado walked in his next two plate appearances against Ross Ohlendorf and Junichi Tazawa. The at-bat against Ohlendorf was particularly impressive. It was an eight-pitch walk in which he twice fouled off a potential strike three.
"That was definitely my best at-bat the whole game," Machado said. "I saw the ball really well, and that was a great approach I had up there."
Defensively, Machado handled two groundouts without incident at short.
"He is very mature for where he is at, I think. You see him on the field, he has a lot confidence," said bench coach John Russell, who managed the split-squad Orioles in Fort Myers. "He made some plays at shortstop. He is not out of control. And he put together some good at-bats. For a young player, he shows a lot of maturity."
Beckett laughed when he was told that Machado grew up watching him pitch.
"Really? That means I'm getting old," Beckett, 31, joked. "I guess he wasn't a Josh Beckett fan because he was sure taking some hard swings."