The post-Machado era begins with uncertainty and sloppy defense - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

The post-Machado era begins with uncertainty and sloppy defense

TORONTO—In the first game of the post-Machado era, the Orioles began the night with Tim Beckham at shortstop, where manager Buck Showalter expects him to be for the rest of the season.

They ended the night with a painful 8-7 loss in 10 innings to the Toronto Blue Jays with a ground ball sneaking its way into short left field between Beckham and the newest Orioles’ third baseman Renato Nunez.

The Orioles were trailing 7-2, but scored five runs in the eighth and ninth to tie only to be undone when Russell Martin grounded to short with two outs in the 10th. Beckham’s off-balance throw was wild, and Martin was generously awarded a single.

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After Paul Fry walked Randal Grichuk, Almedys Diaz’s grounder scored Martin.

“You’ve got a guy running not particularly well down there,” Showalter said. “If it’s an accurate throw, he’s out. He just got in a little bit of a hurry there. You’ve got to keep that last one in the infield, obviously.”

Beckham, who said moving back to short, his lifelong position from third base, was not an adjustment.

“I had a lot more time than I thought, a lot more time,” Beckham said about Martin’s grounder. “The play has to be made every time.”

As Beckham spoke, televisions in the clubhouse had Manny Machado’s first game with the Los Angeles Dodgers on, and many players watched.

The difference in the infield was jarring.

“We didn’t play well defensively again,” Showalter said.

As the Orioles resumed play after the All-Star Game and the Machado trade, Showalter made his rounds, talking to Brad Brach, Zach Britton and Adam Jones, free agents-to be, who may well be heading elsewhere between now and July 31, when the non-waiver trade deadline comes.

The move to trade Machado to the Dodgers Wednesday was just the first of many moves. Brach, Britton and Jones are three free agents that could help the Orioles get younger.

“Bad players aren’t coveted,” Showalter said.

The Orioles’ rebuilding process, which Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette acknowledged after the Machado trade, is a necessary one, and players surveyed say they’re aware of and understand.

“It kind of happened quick,” Britton said of the team’s freefall and the late-inning defeat that leaves them 28-70.

“I’m not sure where we were in the standings at the beginning of last year, but we were in contention for a while, and it seemed like we hit a wall and the performance went downhill pretty quick, drastically.”

In his Wednesday conference call, Britton was named by Duquette as the likely target to be moved next.

“You’ve got to continue to play until they tell you you’re going somewhere else,” Britton said. “Whenever it happens, if it happens, I’ll embrace it and go from there. Manny set a good example for the way you should go about your business with all that commotion.”

The player who was clearly most affected by the Machado trade was Jonathan Schoop.

“It was really sad for me and him,” Schoop said. “I was sad a little bit. It’s part of the business and sometimes you don’t want to believe it happened. It’s a long journey, me and him, so it comes to an end. Everything comes to an end. I know me and him are still going to be friends. I wish him the best over there.”

Schoop, who homered to tie the game at 7-all in the ninth, felt as if a part of him was missing Friday.

“You know it’s going to happen,” Schoop said. “When it happened, it’s real. In the back of your mind, you know it’s going to happen. I’m ready for it, but when it happened, you’re not ready for it because it’s real. Every thought. Like today, I ride [by] myself. I ride [by] myself to the field. Normally, it’s me and him. In the clubhouse, you always see me with him.”

A year ago, Machado had a rough first half, but improved his trade value with a strong finish and an excellent first half this season. Schoop, whose .228 average is far below where it was last year, could be in the same position a year from now, when he’ll be eligible for free agency following the 2019 season.

That seems far away for Schoop, who learned the news from a phone call when Machado told him, “I’m going to miss you, buddy.”

Schoop later went to Machado’s house.

“Then I broke down like a kid,” Schoop said. “It was real. I cried when I went to his house. I won’t see him because he’s a Dodger. I broke down and started to cry. I wish him the best and the emotions are still going on.

“This guy believes in me more than I believed in myself. He says, ‘You’re better than me.’ I believe in him more than I believe in myself. This guy pushed me to the limit, man. Me and this guy, we fight like brothers. We hit each other like brothers, and two minutes later, we’re good. That’s what brothers do.”

The subject of many Orioles’ fans ire this season has been Chris Davis. Now batting .158 after a two-run home run in the eighth, Davis said he agreed with the direction the team is taking

“Given everything that’s gone on this season that was really the only option that we had,” Davis said. “You never want to hear the word rebuild, but at the same time you have to understand something had to change. For us to go out there and continue to do what we’ve been doing and continue to lose, it would just be foolish for us not to try something different.”

Davis has more than four years left on his seven-year, $161-million contract, and he isn’t going anywhere, but Britton knows he’s probably in his final days with the Orioles.

“I try not to think about it until it happens,” Britton said. “I’m sure I’ll have a lot of thoughts at that time, but I just want to continue to pitch well as long as I’m here.”

Showalter prepared himself for the end of Machado’s time in Baltimore last Sunday when he was taken out of the game after a rain delay. The Orioles didn’t want Machado getting hurt on a soggy field.

At the time he was being taken out, Machado thought Showalter was going to tell him his new club, but he couldn’t then. Now, the club is headed a different way with numerous changes expected.

“As much as you know that it’s coming, it’s gives you a little jolt of reality,” Showalter said. “But we’re excited about the reality and the direction that we’re going. I’ve done this a few times. If you embrace it, we’ll be consistent to the message and what we’re going to try to do, put something together here that everybody will be proud of.”

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