08/09/12 5:01 PM ET
O's made right call promoting Machado now
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
The O's have fought their guts out to hang in the race despite a starting rotation that has had some holes. Now they appear to have some magic going. They're winning close games. They're winning extra-inning games.
Little by little, they've started to believe they can do something great. Are you going to doubt them? They've come so far and accomplished so much that it feels like something good is going to come from this gamble.
The Orioles aren't playing scared, and they're not going quietly. To fill their hole at third base, they're going with a kid who has played just 219 Minor League games.
Machado played his last high school game in South Florida just over two years ago. Of those 219 Minor League games, just two of them have been at third base. He has never played a game at Triple-A.
Yet Baltimore isn't going to insert Machado at third and allow him to grow and learn and succeed and fail. He has taken hundreds of grounders at third, and he has so many natural gifts that they believe he'll adjust.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has done a fabulous job convincing his guys they're good enough, and he'll do the same with Machado. Showalter will nurture and encourage Machado and do his best to put the No. 3 prospect in baseball in a position to succeed.
Center fielder Adam Jones will do the same. He, too, was in the Major Leagues at 20 and has dealt with crazy expectations himself.
J.J. Hardy will be a great influence, and so will Jim Thome. The O's have a winning culture, a team-first culture. They will make it comfortable for Machado to simply play and let his talent take over.
Machado worked out with Major Leaguers during his high school years in Miami and may not be awed by this next step.
In a lot of ways, he's Cal Ripken Jr.'s latest gift to the Orioles. It was Ripken who befriended a kid in Miami named Alex Rodriguez when the team had Spring Training in nearby Fort Lauderdale.
Rodriguez never forgot how gracious Ripken was, both with his time and his advice. A-Rod promised himself that if he ever had a chance to help a kid the way Ripken helped him, he would do it.
There's no way of knowing how this will play out. Machado may very well be overwhelmed and sent back to the Minor Leagues for awhile.
But as O's executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said, Machado is the best option because he has the kind of skill set that is rare.
Machado has the kind of talent that can dominant games and win pennants. The Orioles don't know how long it'll take for it to come out, but the talent is there.
Machado has been a career .263 hitter since Baltimore made him the third overall pick of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He has also made some errors at his natural position, shortstop. But Machado has never seemed overwhelmed. He has drawn walks and done the little things very well.
Besides, Machado is a year older and has played 89 more Minor League games than Bryce Harper. Mike Trout had played 266 Minor League games and was just 19 when he got his first crack at the Major Leagues last summer.
Cal Ripken Jr. was 20 when the Orioles wrote his name onto their lineup card for the first time in 1981. He struggled greatly that first season and for part of his second. But his manager, Earl Weaver, stuck with him, defended him mightily -- and often profanely.
Weaver pretty much dared anyone to doubt that Ripken would one day be a great player. Ripken has said that environment was important in easing him through those early days.
The Pirates surprised some people by calling up 23-year-old Starling Marte two weeks ago. He'd played 463 Minor League games, just 99 of them at Triple-A.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington considered going with a veteran guy, but he loved Marte's talent and his energy, and he believed manager Clint Hurdle would put him in the right environment.
Marte entered Thursday hitting .264 and has looked overmatched at times. He has also made some dazzling plays and done his part to keep the Pirates in contention.
Whether Machado succeeds or not in this first trip to the Major Leagues, the O's are doing exactly the right thing in giving him a crack.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.