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 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.

Kris Bryant wants to be Cubs’ player rep, vows to “fight” for next collective bargaining agreement

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Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was one of the most prominent examples of service time manipulation in recent memory. He was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball going into the 2015 season by Baseball America. He then had an incredible spring, batting .425 with a spring-high nine home runs and 15 RBI. The Cubs, however, didn’t add him to the Opening Day roster, instead keeping him in Triple-A for the first two weeks of the season, ensuring the club would get another year of control over Bryant because he wouldn’t accrue enough service time. He made his debut on April 17 and the rest was history. Bryant won the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award.

While the MLB Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf, Bryant didn’t say anything. But it was a learning moment for him. The same is true of the past offseason, which Bryant says “opened my eyes,” as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He now considers labor issues a priority, saying, “I need to study up, have my voice heard, continue to learn, because this is going to affect us for years to come. And I’d be foolish not to kind of offer myself out there.”

As Wittenmyer notes, Bryant hopes to replace Jake Arrieta as the Cubs’ player reprensentative. The players make that decision later this month. Bryant also vowed to fight for the next collective bargaining agreement. He said, “Maybe the focus was on other things rather than some of the more important things. But I think with this next one things are definitely going to change, and there’ll definitely be more fight on our side just because we’re going to get the chance to experience the effects of some of the things we agreed to. The only way to get what you want here is to fight for it. And I think you’re going to see a lot of that.”

It’s good to see Bryant motivated by recent economic developments in baseball. Hopefully more players take his lead and become more informed, arming themselves with all of the tools they need to create a better situation for themselves when the current CBA expires.