Machado makes quiet Padres debut in Cactus League game
The four-time All-Star spent the offseason being courted by every club with money to burn, and he wound up signing a $300 million, 10-year deal with San Diego late last month. But after a few workouts in Arizona, his Cactus League debut against the San Francisco Giants was rather underwhelming.
The 26-year-old Machado popped out in his first at-bat and drew a walk in his second, and he came out of Saturday’s game after three innings at third base without getting any action.
Then again, the Padres are paying Machado for what he will do when the game start counting.
Not what happens on a sun-splashed field in Arizona.
“Finally. Finally got to play some baseball,” Machado said. “It’s been good, getting to know my teammates and just getting my feet under me. It’s been a nice week, getting to know players a lot more. I finally got out there and played some baseball — makes it a lot better.”
Machado batted second and started at third base, his primary position for most of his career. He played shortstop last year with the Orioles and Dodgers, but the Padres have one of the game’s top shortstop prospects in Fernando Tatis Jr.
“It felt good. I have to get some more reps over there but I feel good,” Machado said. “Just to leave all that back-field stuff and be in a real game, it was exciting.”
Tatis also got the start against the Giants along with first baseman Eric Hosmer, who signed a $144 million, seven-year deal last year and together form the Padres’ infield of the future.
One that manager Andy Green expects to push his club well past its 66 wins of a season ago.
“Look forward to it more in the season,” Green said, when asked about writing Machado’s name on his lineup card. “It’s good. Happy to get him out here. He’s worked hard on the back fields here.”
Green said Machado has been spending most of his time bonding with his new teammates, and he thinks the former third overall pick has been especially helpful for the 20-year-old Tatis.
“He knows what it’s like being a prospect who has high expectations,” said Green, himself a former third baseman. “I’m sure he can relate in a way nobody else really can.”
Yet the expectations for Machado are similarly stratospheric.
He’s coming off a season in which he hit .297, belted a career-best 37 homers and drove in 107 runs, and helped Los Angeles reach the World Series.
That season, coupled with his track record, is why the White Sox and other deep-pocketed suitors spent the offseason wooing him. And lest he forget how much money the Padres ultimately invested in him, Machado was reminded by a Giants fan during his second plate appearance Saturday.
“You’re making $60,000 an hour!” the fan yelled. “Better not strike out!”
So much for a pressure-free spring training game.
“It’s an exciting day for him, I think, to get back on the field,” teammate Ian Kinsler said. “It’s an exciting day for the rest of the infield to be playing with him. It’s an exciting day for the Padres to see basically the new face or somebody that everybody’s going to relate to as far as being a Padres fan.”
Machado said he normally takes 60 or 70 at-bats during spring training, and that means he has a little catching up to do after arriving late. But he said the work on the back fields has been helpful, even if it doesn’t come close to replicating game speed.
He finally got a taste of that against Saturday.
“It’s always worth it when you come out here and put on a uniform and step on that field,” Machado said, flashing a big smile. “It’s the best feeling you’ll ever have.”