Machado to play first extended spring game today
Slated for five innings, O's third baseman may go on rehab stint next week
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."
O's taking wait-and-see approach on Patton
BOSTON -- Orioles lefty reliever Troy Patton, who is scheduled to come off the suspended list on April 30, is ready to start pitching in games.
What happens after that could prove challenging for the Orioles, who will have to clear a roster spot or risk losing Patton -- who is out of options -- on waivers.
"We've talked about it, but until we get there, a lot of things can change between now and the 30th," manager Buck Showalter said. "We gained another day because of the rainout. Or lost another day, depending how you look at it. If we had to make the decision today, it would be very tricky. We'll see what happens between now and then.
"The worst thing would be he's pitching wherever and not doing well and here comes... He's healthy. He's fine down there. I'm anxious to see him get in front of some competition where guys are trying to beat up on him."
Patton would join lefties Zach Britton and Brian Matusz in the bullpen, although there's no clear-cut solution as to who goes with the O's having a relief corps with several out-of-option players.
Meek proving reliable in late-inning spots
BOSTON -- New Orioles reliever Evan Meek has been used in late-inning situations from the get-go, and manager Buck Showalter said he will continue to use the righty as an alternative to setup man Darren O'Day, depending on the matchups and each pitcher's respective workload.
"Evan gives you a different look down there that a lot of right-handers don't bring, especially down there in that bullpen," Showalter said of the non-roster invitee who won the final 'pen spot this spring. "Just glad he's healthy."
Meek and O'Day, along with lefty Zach Britton, had not allowed any earned runs entering Friday, and the 30-year-old Meek could end up being quite the under-the-radar addition for the O's. An All-Star reliever for the Pirates in 2010, Meek had a tear in his right shoulder that slowed his career as he spent all of last season in the Minors.
"I think it was a situation where they wanted to see what they had right away," Meek said of being called upon in big situations early. "What do we have, is he healthy, is he ready to go? Because back with Pittsburgh that's what I did. the late innings. I think it was a no messing around kind of situation. They were like, 'Let's see what he does now. He's 30 years old, he's not 20 years old anymore, let's see if he gets back to where he was.' And I think that worked out for everybody. I'm ready to go at any point, but it's nice to get consistent work at consistent points."
Entering Friday, Meek had thrown seven scoreless innings in six outings, allowing three hits and striking out six.
"If they are going to bite when they are a puppy, they are going to bite when they are a big dog," Showalter said of throwing Meek in the fire. "So you see what happens. Evan, one thing, he ain't scared. He ain't scared. When you go through some of the things he's gone through in his life. He's not going to go out there and be timid. Thats one of the things you like about him and all of our guys down there."
"I know Buck knows guys in the bullpen better than he does me, I know it's definitely a trust factor," Meek said of the later innings. "As long as we can keep consistent, obviously it's a long season and consistency is the biggest thing in the bullpen. You've got to know what you are going to get. And sometimes it's not going to go your way. But how do you bounce back the next day? How do you bounce back two days after?
"I think that so far things have been going well to earn that trust. I'm really enjoying how he's using me and how he's using everyone. And I think everyone would say the same thing."
• Rule 5 Draft pick Michael Almanzar played nine innings Friday at third base in extended spring with no problems, while Luis Ayala is slated to throw live batting practice Saturday.
• Top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy had a 40-pitch side Friday, throwing just fastballs and changeups as he continues to progress toward breaking balls.
• Edgmer Escalona (shoulder inflammation) threw from 90 feet 25 times Friday. Francisco Peguero (wrist) took 25 dry swings and 25 off the tee as he continues to progress.
• Nolan Reimold (neck), who was cleared for baseball activities Thursday, had 25 swings off the tee and played light toss Friday.
• Baltimore's rotation had a 1.71 ERA in the past five games entering Friday, the best mark in the American League over that stretch.
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.