Sports

After early season struggles, Manny Machado finding comfort zone at the plate

SportsBaltimore OriolesRobinson CanoBaseballKevin YoukilisNew York YankeesTampa Bay Rays

NEW YORK -- After going through an early-season 1-for-18 slump, third baseman Manny Machado is starting to find his comfort zone in the No. 2 spot in the Orioles batting order.

Since hitting the game-winning home run in the team’s 8-5 comeback win in Boston on Wednesday night, Machado is 6-for-12, including a three-hit game Thursday and two hits Friday against the New York Yankees.

His game Friday will be remembered for hitting into a triple play that ended the eighth, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Saturday's game that he’s proud of the way Machado has put some early struggles behind him in his first full big league season.

“You try to put yourself in his shoes, which is hard to do because I was never 20 years old playing at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park,” Showalter said. “So I think watching his body language, it wasn’t a physical thing. He was just frustrated because he wanted to contribute. So it was for the right reasons. It will happen again.”

Despite struggling at the plate, Machado has continued to solidify the Orioles' defense at third base, which was the reason he first came to the big leagues last season.

“He understands that why he was originally here and that we were going to let him go through the ups and downs offensively because he could always impact our game at third base,” Showalter said. “And he’s done that. He’s impacted some of our wins when he didn’t hit. Him and our entire organization know now that you have to defend to stay up here.”

Reliving the triple-play

The Orioles hit into their first triple play since 1996 in the eighth inning of Friday night’s 5-2 loss to the Yankees. On the play, Machado hit a short-hop grounder to second baseman Robinson Cano, who threw to second for a force out. Yankees shortstop Jayson Nix then threw to third, catching Alexi Casilla in a rundown instead of turning a routine 4-6-3 double play.

“He was going to go to first, but Cano started it,” Casilla said. “[Cano] told him to throw to third. I saw Cano tell Nix to throw it to third. That was a good idea for Cano, because anything can happen, especially teams like this. I can score from third easier than Machado from first.”

Casilla saw Machado running to second, but he couldn’t keep the rundown between second and third going long enough, and third baseman Kevin Youkilis threw to first after tagging out Casilla. First baseman Lyle Overbay threw to Cano at second, who tagged out a sliding Machado for the third out.

“When I'm in the rundown, I was looking to Manny, where he was, and I said, 'Oh my God, I've got to stay as long as I can,’” Casilla said. “When Youkilis tagged me out, I looked back to Manny and he was like halfway. I said, 'There's no way they just turned a triple play. Oh my God.' That was my first thought.”

Johnson and Wada throw

Right-hander Steve Johnson (strained lat) left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada (recovery from Tommy John surgery) both threw in an extended spring training game Saturday in Sarasota, Fla.

For Johnson, it was the first time he’s thrown in a game since going on the disabled list March 23. Wada threw two innings in his first game action since surgery last May. Wada’s workload will increase one inning of work every five days.

“Everything went well, real well,” Showalter said. “Their velocities were good and they said they felt fine.”

Weaver tribute time changed

The Orioles have moved Saturday’s tribute to late manager Earl Weaver to 6 p.m. The event, which will take place at Camden Yards before the Orioles face the Los Angeles Dodgers, was originally scheduled for 2 p.m.

The proceedings will include a video tribute and a roster of guest speakers that includes fellow Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson, Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson, Showalter and Weaver’s son Mike.

Weaver died in January at the age of 82.

Around the horn

Right-handers Jake Arrieta (Tuesday) and Chris Tillman (Wednesday) will start the first two games of next week’s home series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Right-hander Roberto Hernandez, left-hander Matt Moore and ace lefty David Price are projected to pitch the three games in that series for the Rays. … Adam Jones’ nine-game hitting streak to open the season ended Friday with a 0-for-4 night, but he went 2-for-4 Saturday afternoon, raising his bating average to .426. … Second baseman Brian Roberts (right hamstring strain) is still receiving treatment in Sarasota and hasn’t resumed baseball activities yet.

eencina@baltsun.com
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SportsBaltimore OriolesRobinson CanoBaseballKevin YoukilisNew York YankeesTampa Bay Rays
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