Since being called up Aug. 9, rookie Manny Machado has started each of the Orioles' last 19 games — all at third base.
Pretty impressive for a 20-year-old, who was drafted with the third overall pick in 2010 to be the shortstop of the future and had played just two minor league games at third base in his career.
Yet he looks like he's been playing the position for years, surprising just about everyone with how seamless his transition has been — including himself.
"Yeah, I have [been surprised] too," Machado said with a wide grin. "But I feel kind of confident over there, playing third. I'm always looking in for the signs, what to play, where to position myself for the game, for the different hitters. … I do feel comfortable out there. I am having fun up here."
In his first 19 big league games, Machado has made just one error — and it was on a questionable scoring call. On Aug. 17 in Detroit, he backhanded a grounder and a made a long throw from the foul side of third that Mark Reynolds appeared to catch while briefly toeing first base. The runner was originally called out, but the home-plate umpire overturned the decision — leading to Reynolds and manager Buck Showalter getting ejected.
Otherwise, Machado has been perfect at the hot corner.
"Really good," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said when asked to evaluate Machado's defense. "I don't know how I would do if I moved over there. But what he has done has really impressed me, range-wise and his arm. Basically everything."
With Hardy at shortstop, Machado has been pushed to third for now, something he has said in the past he didn't want to do. But it was his ticket to the majors from Double-A, and he's loving it.
"Wherever Buck needs me to play, I'll play. I'll just jump in and see what I can do," Machado said. "But shortstop is my position and eventually, maybe, I'll keep playing short. Or if third base is going to be my position, I'll just transfer myself over.
"Yeah, I can see myself being a third baseman, but I've always been a good shortstop. J.J. right now has more experience than me and is a great defensive player. I look up to him. So I'll try to be like him, but try to do that at third base."
The 30-year-old Hardy, who is signed through 2014, said he knows he may have to switch spots with Machado at some point, but right now he said he is concentrating on doing his job while watching the rookie excel at his new one.
"Does it cross my mind? Yeah. I'm not going to lie. I was in the same situation in Milwaukee with Alcides Escobar coming up. I don't know what's going to happen," Hardy said. "[Machado] is doing a great job at third base right now, so I feel like all I need to worry about is playing shortstop as good as I can and things will take care of themselves. If I'm too old [in the future], if he is 22 years old and he's a better shortstop and has more range, well, that's just the way the game works."
Wolf set to be activated
Randy Wolf pitched well in his workout at Camden Yards on Thursday and will be activated on the 25-man roster Friday.
The 36-year-old left-hander will then be eligible to be placed on the Orioles' playoff roster if necessary.
Wolf is expected to join the bullpen — though he has made just five relief appearances in his 14-season career spanning 371 games. He hasn't pitched since Aug. 17, when he allowed five runs in seven innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Milwaukee Brewers then released Wolf (3-10, 5.69 ERA in 25 games this year) on Aug. 22.
He arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday and played catch and long toss in the outfield before the game, then talked with Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair.
Obliged to make room for Wolf on the 25-man roster, the Orioles sent Thursday's starter, Zach Britton, to Triple-A Norfolk. Britton can return after the Tides' season ends Monday (assuming they don't make the playoffs, which they likely won't) and could conceivably make his regular turn in the rotation for the Orioles on Tuesday.
Wieters gets rest
Catcher Matt Wieters got a day off Thursday afternoon after playing in eight consecutive games. His last day off was Aug. 19, another day game after a night game in Detroit.
Wieters has played in 116 of the Orioles' 130 games this season and started 105 at catcher. Even though he says he feels relatively healthy, Wieters said he'd still enjoy the day off.
"I'm good," he said. "It's definitely the end of August and coming to September, so you're not feeling as good as you do in April, but I still feel good.
"Everybody's ready for the grind when they come into the season, and once you can make it to September, you can really push yourself and really try to finish strong."
Around the horn
RHP Tommy Hunter will pitch one inning for Double-A Bowie on Sept. 1 to stay fresh. He then can return to the Orioles on Sept. 3 ... MychalGivens, who batted .243 in 100 games at Low-A Delmarva, is expected to be converted from an infielder to a pitcher this offseason. Givens was the Orioles' second-round pick in 2009. ... The Orioles will call up several players when rosters expand Saturday. One will be a third catcher — likely Luis Exposito, who is on the 40-man roster. ... Wilson Betemit (right wrist) came through his first rehab game at Double-A Bowie with no issues. He was hitless in four at-bats and was scheduled to play for the Baysox again Thursday night. He's expected to be activated by the Orioles this week. ... The Orioles can also expand their coaching staff in September. Former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor will be with the club and travel with it for the remainder of the season. Triple A-Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin will join the Orioles on Sept. 11. Until then, roving instructors Dan Werner and Bobby Dickerson will meet the team in Toronto and throw batting practice. They will leave the club to begin the organization's Instructional League on Sept. 12 in Sarasota, Fla.. Minor league coordinator Brian Graham also may help out before he goes to Instructional League. ... Showalter said the condition of Nick Johnson's injured right wrist has not improved and he not expected to rejoin the Orioles this season.