BALTIMORE -- Until he gets cleared to start playing, Manny Machado isn't confident he will be ready for the Orioles' Opening Day game on March 31 against the Red Sox.
First, the 21-year-old -- who had a torn medial patellofemoral ligament repaired in his left knee -- will essentially relearn to run with the hope being that he will be cleared at his next appointment in approximately six weeks to start playing in Spring Training games. Machado, who acknowledged mid-March is the earliest date he can take the field in a Grapefruit League game, was cleared to start easing into baseball activities on Friday and said it's impossible to predict a return until then.
"Once I start playing I can give you a better, more or less, of an idea," said Machado, who underwent surgery Oct. 14 and will now begin running outside, taking ground balls and hitting. "Not a full-go yet. It's a process. Little by little, I'll be able to get back out there. It was definitely good to hear some good news from the doctor."
Machado also had video analysis done while on a treadmill in Los Angeles on Friday, which broke down his stride and potential injury risks in the way he runs. Fixing that is a big part of his next phase in the rehab process and one that Machado acknowledged will be much harder mentally.
"It's all muscle memory," said Machado, who suffered the season-ending injury landing awkwardly on the first-base bag during a game against the Rays on Sept. 23. "I've ran my entire life how I did last year, and obviously I had two [knee] injuries in the past two years, and that's definitely not right. And from what I saw yesterday, it's a fix, it's an easy fix, but it's something that's more mental than anything else. It's more of getting the right positioning and getting my gluteus and quads [involved].
"Just getting my hips stronger and keeping it balanced, [keeping] my knee straight over my toes, that's something where when I was cutting yesterday, it's not much but just a little tap in that in the long run it might affect me some way or the other. So, it's better now that I have time to fix it and correct it and get better."
Machado was tested first to see if he was landing equally on each leg while running, which he passed, but when he was asked to cut and run or jump off a box, he was shown the video -- which he called "phenomenal" -- of some of the things he needs to work on this month.
"Now it's a different rehab," said Machado, who is still more than a month ahead of schedule and praised the work of his rehab guy in Miami. "I'm done with the rehab, it's how soon can I get out there to a field and fix what I need to fix. It's running to the base so when I step on that base my knee doesn't buckle, it doesn't go anywhere, it stays stable so my glutes can be working at the same time. ... It's normal."
So when can fans see the normal Machado -- who in 2013 won a Gold Glove Award and was an All-Star in his first full season -- back out on the field?
"I can't give you a real answer, a timeline of when I'm going to be ready," Machado said, just minutes after teammate Adam Jones predicted he would be in the season opener on March 31. "I'm only 3 1/2 months out of surgery, and this takes 4-6 months. ... Once I get out there I'm going to be playing every day. I'm not going to go out there and take a day off here or take a day off there just because my knee is aching or I don't feel right. But I definitely do have the confidence now to go out there and know what I have to do to get better and get my strength right, which is the most important thing right now."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.