SALISBURY — This time last year Manny Machado was preparing for graduation as well as for the Major League Baseball draft. The high school standout was widely considered one of the top prospects in baseball before he even received his diploma but even he was surprised to be taken third overall by the Baltimore Orioles.
“I thought I might go high, but I didn’t think I’d go third,” he said. “Right now I’m just looking forward to getting out there.”
Machado began earning his keep almost at once, driving in what would turn out to be the game winning run with a triple in his first game as a Shorebird and ending the first home series in the top three of each offensive category.
For his part, Machado already has his eye on the closest prize, a Shorebirds trip to the South Atlantic League playoffs. It’s one they haven’t made recently but after an impressive enough start, it is a goal that already appears to be realistic.
“I have that mindset,” Machado said. “We all want to get that playoff win.”
Machado joins prospects Kieron Pope and Mychal Givens who both return from injuries to an organization and a team looking to make a sustainable, longterm turnaround. They’re part of a significant Orioles retooling that starts at the Single A level with the Delmarva Shorebirds.
Pope, who missed a chunk of the last two seasons after breaking his femur after a routine run through first base, is back and already showing glimpses of why the team held on to him. Though significant, his injury wasn’t career-threatening and Pope has taken his time to make sure his legs are ready to go all game, all the time.
“I try and get in early to get a little extra stretching done but I’m fine now and ready to go,” he said.
While the outfielder’s skills are already top notch, Pope has spent the early part of the season mainly at designated hitter. He said his mission this year is to get all the at-bats he can to bring his game up to the next level. So far this year Pope has a home run and a pair of doubles and no strike outs through the first three games as he tries to reestablish himself as a power hitter who can get on base as well.
Givens, who is also returning from an injury — he chipped a bone in his thumb last year — has rehabbed successfully as well and has returned to the middle infield, shifting over to second base.
“We’re here to make a change,” Givens said adding that he was excited about adjustments throughout the organization. “We want to, too.”
The Shorebirds are working toward establishing themselves as a hitting team that’s also defensively stingy. But as much as they’re working toward becoming dominant in the South Atlantic League, the overriding mission is to build the kind of farm team that will help keep the Orioles in contention for the foreseeable future.