Report: Manny Machado is 6-8 weeks ahead of schedule from knee surgery

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Opening Day was in doubt after Manny Machado underwent surgery to repair a torn medial patellofemoral ligament in his left knee back in October, but there’s now increased optimism that he’ll be ready for the start of the season.

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun hears from a source that things “went well” during Machado’s check-up with Dr. Neal ElAttrache in California today, as the 21-year-old was told that he is 6-8 weeks ahead of schedule. It was originally estimated that he would need 4-6 months of recovery time. He’s currently three months removed from surgery, so the belief is that he’ll be ready for Opening Day if he can avoid setbacks.

Machado hit .283/.314/.432 with 14 home runs and 71 RBI over 156 games during his first full season in the majors last year. He led the American League with 51 doubles and won a Gold Glove Award for his defense at third base. If he can stay healthy, there’s every reason to believe that he can take a step forward offensively and blossom into a star.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.