Manny Machado is on the road to recovery after his horrendous knee injury late last year. In his first rehab game with Class A Frederick last night, he went three for four, including two doubles and a triple. Manny played DH and has yet to compete in the field since his injury in anything other than an extended spring training game. Two of his hits went to the opposite field and he had nothing but good things to say about getting back into competition.
Manny has yet to play in the field; he expects to play third base in today’s game. The knee injury has clearly not had a lasting affect on his productivity with the bat, and his running the bases seems to be back to normal. This is evident by the three extra base hits including a triple (which of course are not easy to come by). He will return to the big leagues when he gets back in the habit of playing nine innings every day and being on his feet and in the field. He needs to test his body (knee and all). When his body gets accustomed to the rigors of being an everyday ball player and he is able to remain healthy, we will see him back in an Orioles uniform.
No word has been given on exactly how many games at what minor league levels he will need before he rejoins the big league team. The organization is feeling things out with their young superstar instead of putting a quantitative value on the number of games he will play in the minors.
However, when Manny does return, how long before we see the Manny Machado we have gotten used to? The stressors of the minor leagues are not the same as the majors. Manny can not be expected to jump right in to excellence (though he has proven that he can. Let’s not forget that his first major league hit was a triple and in only his second game, he hit two home runs). The concern here is that Manny has not had a full offseason to rest and train. He had his surgery in mid-October, meaning that he couldn’t walk for some time after that. He was not able to run the bases until mid-March.
Most importantly, we should not rush Manny back. He is a pivotal cog in our team, but we also expect him to be for many years to come (Assuming we can sign him to a long year deal. Like Peter Angelos and Dan Duquette, I will address this at a later date). The last thing we need is for Manny to re-injure the knee or experience some other injury that would keep him out of the line up for an additional length of time.
The problem I see is that many people expect Manny’s return to be the cure-all that the Orioles need. Yes, he brings excellent defense, a solid presence in the number two spot in the line-up and quality on base percentage. All of these things the Orioles have lacked in his absence. However, these are not the only things the Orioles need to improve upon.
As great as he is, Manny can not make our pitchers go deeper into games. He can not relieve the bullpen. Manny also can not single handedly rejuvenate our offense. Manny can’t get Ubaldo Jimenez or Adam Jones to produce the way we expect them to. He can’t keep J.J. Hardy or Chris Davis healthy. He can’t get Ryan Flaherty or David Lough’s batting average over the Mendoza line.
Anyone who expects Manny to return and all of the Orioles’ problems to be gone is simply unrealistic. I would love it if he returned and we never lost another game all season, but I don’t expect that to happen. Manny’s return will be a step in the right direction, but there are many more things that need to be taken care of. He will be able to kick-start the offense, but even last night, his three extra base hits could not propel Frederick to a win. Granted, they did better than the Orioles, who were shut out by Kansas City.
Machado’s return will help, but it will not answer all of the Orioles’ problems.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)