BOSTON -- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will play in his first extended spring game today as the infielder takes a big step forward in his recovery from October's left knee surgery.
Machado, who suffered a setback when he cut the bases in Spring Training, ran the bases for the second consecutive day Friday and also slid successfully. It's an encouraging sign in a long rehab for the 21-year-old infielder with the back-to-back phase of running a crucial step to him advancing to games. The plan is for Machado to play five innings at third base today.
"He's doing it right," said manager Buck Showalter, who spoke with Machado earlier Friday. "He's obviously wanting to get there as soon as he can. It's one of the things I told him [Friday]. [If] it takes five or six days down there before he's ready to play [rehab] games, start that clock ticking, that's fine. That's why it's important that he and we make that step to where that might be, a Minor League affiliate. I think he's got between 17 and 20 plate appearances already."
There are no extended games Sunday, but Showalter said the Orioles would create a game if necessary -- joking he'd go down and pitch -- with Machado playing in at least two or three games before heading out on a rehab assignment. Asked if Machado could go on a rehab stint when the team heads to Toronto on Tuesday, Showalter said that may be pushing it, although they will rely on Machado and how he feels.
"That's hopeful," Showalter said of the middle of next week. "I'm just going to let it run its course. I'm not going to put any this day, that day exactly, and then there's some unknown there. Just let him get through a few days at extended spring, and let's see where we are."
It's likely Machado goes on rehab at some point next week, and the 20-day rehab limit for position players is something the O's are hoping they don't need to use. Machado has been doing baseball activities for months, so there isn't a mandated number of at-bats he needs before joining Baltimore.
"I think he's been pretty frank with us, honest," Showalter said. "I like when he seems to slow something down a little bit. It shows you some maturity. Having someone around him that knows what it's like when it's right because he's not going to BS us. He's not. He's going to be real honest about this. He knows how important this is to his career."
Machado will be watched by director of player development Brian Graham and minor league infield instructor Dave Anderson. Vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson will accompany him when he goes out on an assignment to one of the affiliates.
Does where Machado play at his rehab games matter?
"To an extent," Showalter said. "He's not going to stay in [Class A] Delmarva the whole time, I'll tell you that. I don't want to get into saying what level he's going to be at. … I know what Manny's rehab there means to some of the affiliates. We're going to do what's best for him and the organization when the time comes. We just hope it comes after a few days in extended spring."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less