“Everything that he’s supposed to be doing at this point he’s doing,” Showalter said. “He’s not ahead of schedule, he’s not behind schedule. He’s on schedule. What that is, whether it’s the day after Opening Day, on Opening Day, or it’s a month after Opening Day, we just don’t want any setbacks, and we have not had any setbacks yet.”
Machado is slated to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache on March 18 to get cleared to participate in spring games, but Showalter indicated that appointment could come sooner.
Showalter said Machado cleared a significant mental hurdle on Thursday by running down the first base line and landing on the first base bag on each foot. Machado’s injury came in September when his left leg landed awkwardly on the first base bag.
“You can’t tell a runner, ‘OK I want you to hit the bag with this foot,’” Showalter said. “You run and whichever one [lands] comes up. In the course of it, he hit it with both feet, and that’s another hurdle. Taking turns, he’s done that. He’s moving side to side now, so he’s right where he needs to be. Where that leads us, I’m OK with wherever it is.
“Both Richie [Bancells] and I were talking about it this morning,” Showalter added. “We both thought that hitting the bag was a mental hurdle. You feel real comfortable that physically it’s going to hold up. ... Knowing what is normal and what might be alarming, we haven’t had any of the alarming stuff.”
Earlier this week, Machado began taking soft-toss, conducting side-to-side defensive drills, making backhand and fronthand plays without a glove. Since spring training began, Machado has been taking batting practice and doing defensive drills without sharp lateral movement.
Showalter has also been coy in discussing the closer competition. It’s obvious that Tommy Hunter is the leading candidate, but he said it’s too early to be gauging the competition.
“I feel comfortable with the people we’re considering for it now, but you never know where it will end up,” Showalter said. “It’s not something you want to experiment with the whole season. … Some of them are scheduled to start maybe in the minor leagues. You never know how good a horse you’ve got until you hook him up to a heavy load.”
Also of note: Outfielder Henry Urrutia (sore throwing shoulder) will be available off the bench today against the Phillies. Infielder Alexi Casilla is slated to return Sunday from a hamstring injury, but he could see time in one of Saturday's split-squad games if he comes out of a Friday workout well.