Manny Machado plays in first extended spring training game, nears official rehab stint

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Good news for the Orioles, as Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports that Manny Machado played in his first extended spring training game this morning.

Machado, who underwent surgery in October to repair a medial patellofemoral ligament in his left knee, played five innings at third base and received four at-bats. He’s scheduled to take the day off tomorrow, but will play seven innings at third base on Monday before serving as the designated hitter on Tuesday. Orioles manager Buck Showalter is hopeful that he’ll be able to begin an official minor league rehab assignment at some point next week, setting up a potential return in early May.

Machado, 21, owns a .279/.309/.435 over his first 207 games in the majors. He won a Gold Glove last season for his exemplary defense at third base. The Orioles have relied on a combination of Jonathan Schoop, Ryan Flaherty, and Steve Lombardozzi at the hot corner so far this year. It goes without saying, but he’s a big upgrade. And we likely haven’t seen the best of him yet from an offensive perspective.

Cubs place Ben Zobrist on 10-day disabled list with back soreness

Ben Zobrist
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Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with back soreness. The move is retroactive to April 14. While it doesn’t appear to be the precursor to any serious injury, Zobrist has already missed six straight days of activity after feeling his back tighten up last weekend. Should he see the minimum time on the DL, as expected, he’ll be eligible to return by the start of the Cubs’ series against the Indians on Tuesday.

Prior to his injury, the 36-year-old outfielder raked an impressive .326/.408/.465 with three extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances. He last appeared for the Cubs during their homestand last weekend and helped propel the team to a 14-10 win over the Braves with three hits, two walks and two RBI. Provided that he can remain healthy going forward, it’s a promising start for the veteran outfielder, who has yet to return to the All-Star-worthy numbers he posted with the club in 2016.

With Zobrist sidelined for the time being, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the leadoff spot and center field duties over the last week. Happ went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games before passing the baton to Almora, who collected five hits and two RBI in 11 at-bats.