Manny Machado’s road back from knee surgery is almost complete.
Machado is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment tomorrow with High-A Frederick, but Eddie A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun hears that the Orioles are projecting a possible return during their three-game series against the Twins next weekend in Minnesota.
This is a tentative plan, as the Orioles still want to see how Machado responds to playing three games with Frederick. If all goes well, he’ll likely move have one final test in Double-A or Triple-A before joining the big club.
Position players are permitted to spend up to 21 days on a minor league rehab assignment, but Machado has already logged more than 30 at-bats between simulated and extended spring training games. Assuming no issues with his surgically-repaired right knee, he shouldn’t need much time to shake the rust.
Machado, 21, batted .283/.314/.432 with 14 home runs, 51 doubles, and 71 RBI in 156 games last season prior to tearing the medial patellofemoral ligament in his left knee in late September. He won his first Gold Glove Award after the season for his excellent defense at the hot corner. The Orioles are hoping that the best is yet to come.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.