It is still nearly 10 months until next year’s World Baseball Classic begins, but Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is already committing to participate in the event and plans to play for the Dominican Republic.
Even though Machado — who is off to the best start of his major league career after enjoying his best offensive season last year — was born and raised in Miami, he holds his Dominican heritage close to him. Machado’s parents and grandparents hail from the Dominican. Machado said on Wednesday that he wanted to play for the Dominican Republic so he can represent his family.
“I grew up here, I was born here,” Machado said. “I’ve played for Team USA before, I have in the past. In 18U, we won the gold medal, but you know what? This is something beyond that. I think it’s something that growing up, that my family always wanted [to see]. My mom and my grandfather, who is resting in peace right now, he always wanted to see me play for the Dominican. It’s where we grew up. That’s where we come from. That’s where my family was born.”
Players often wrestle with the decision of whether to represent their home country in the WBC because it means being away from their team for several weeks during spring training. In 2013, pitchers Wei-Yin Chen (Taiwan) and Miguel Gonzalez (Mexico) initially wanted to participate but ultimately opted against playing in the WBC.
After throwing 6 2/3 scoreless innings for the Dominican in the WBC, Strop struggled at the beginning of the regular season for the Orioles, posting a 7.25 ERA before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs with Jake Arrieta in early July 2013 for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.
Historically, playing in the WBC seems to have more of an adverse effect on pitchers, who are thrown into high-pressure innings much earlier than they normally are during spring training.
But it also gives position players an opportunity to add at-bats against tougher competition earlier in the spring. In 2013, Jones came out of the WBC playing well, hitting .319/.347/.534 with 11 homers and 37 RBIs in the first two months of the season. He ended the year with career highs in homers (33) and RBIs (108).
“[It] will help [Machado] next year getting ready, too, will give him a chance to see some other guys at his position while he’s getting at-bats,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Showalter said he supported Machado’s decision to play in the World Baseball Classic.
“We’ve always kicked it around,” Showalter said. “I’m sure we’ve had some conversations about it. … We talked about it today. He doesn’t have to [ask me]. That’s a long way away. He’s got his own thoughts on things. It will be a great time for him. I’m very supportive of it.
“I don’t have any problem with it. The people who are a lot more up to it than me embrace it and it’s something that’s important globally and our game is very global, so I’ll support any of our guys who want to do it, including me. I had a good offer from a country. And if I take it, I can retire in that country.”
Showalter added that Machado’s absence from Orioles camp would benefit the club by allowing it to take a closer look at other players.
Machado said playing in the WBC shouldn’t affect his preseason preparation for next season.
“Nothing will change,” Machado said. “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Same offseason. I’ll probably just prepare a little more. I’ll probably see a couple more pitches. I work out with a couple of pitchers in the offseason, so probably get some more at-bats and kind of see some pitchers before. Other than that, nothing will change. I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing every year, get ready for the season, like I’m going into the season.”
Machado played in several international contests for Team USA as a teenager, but this would be the first time he plays in the WBC.
“This is not just for me,” Machado said. “It’s mostly for my grandfather and my parents. I know they’ve always wanted this. I know I’ve given them a lot and I think this is probably going to be the icing on the cake for me to be in the uniform where across the chest is where they were born and where they spent their lives.”
He said he’s looking forward to the possibility of playing against a close friend on an international stage.
“It’s going to be pretty cool, and I get to beat Jonathan Schoop, too,” Machado joked with Schoop in earshot.