Manny Machado’s capability to play shortstop could impact the Orioles in both the short- and long-term picture, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The 24-year-old Machado will hit the open market following the 2018 season, and he tells Rosenthal that he still thinks about playing his natural position of shortstop even though he’s spent the bulk of his career at third base (and become one of the best defensive third basemen in the game — if not of all-time). Asked about the thought of playing shortstop on a consistent basis, Machado replies: “I’m not going to lie. It’s always been there. … I played a little bit there (last year). That was fun. I trained this year to play there just in case anything happened.” Machado also acknowledges, though, that he’s experienced great success at third base, rhetorically asking, “So why change?”
As Rosenthal notes, the Orioles hold a $14MM option over J.J. Hardy at season’s end, and the ability to move Machado to short could impact their thinking. (Although the option would vest and become guaranteed if Hardy tallies 600 PAs.) Beyond that, though, Rosenthal wonders if Machado would be enticed by the opportunity to play shortstop on an everyday basis when he reaches free agency in the 2018-19 offseason, whether in Baltimore or elsewhere.
A few more notes pertaining to the AL East…
- Red Sox left-hander David Price threw a 20-pitch bullpen session today and came away from the workout feeling good, he told reporters (via Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald). The key for the former AL Cy Young winner, however, will be seeing how he feels tomorrow. Price has yet to pitch for the Sox this season after a forearm issue led to a scare during Spring Training and, prior to today, hadn’t thrown off a mound since Feb. 28, Jennings notes. Farrell said that if Price feels strong tomorrow, another mound session would be lined up for Wednesday. There’s still no definitive timeline when it comes to Price’s return, but Jennings notes that he won’t pitch in the Majors until at least May.
- In a Red Sox bullpen that has quite a bit of uncertainty throughout its ranks, right-hander Matt Barnes has emerged as the primary setup option for closer Craig Kimbrel, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. That could change, potentially, when Tyler Thornburg is ready to come off the disabled list, but Barnes’ early showing and the struggles of many of his teammates have him primed for a big role in the Boston ’pen. ““A guy that’s maybe a little bit more seasoned than some others in some of those big spots, he’s going to be a pivotal guy in our bullpen,” said Sox manager John Farrell to MacPherson. The 26-year-old Barnes averaged 9.6 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9 with a 45.6 percent ground-ball rate out of the bullpen last season, and he’s logged a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio through his first 3 2/3 shutout innings in 2017.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Colby Rasmus’ rehab assignment with the Rays’ Class-A Advanced affiliate in Charlotte is still on hold for a few more days, likely pushing the outfielder’s debut back until next week. Rasmus was involved in an outfield collision in Charlotte last Thursday, as Topkin reported, and while he remained in that game, the team is now proceeding rather cautiously. Topkin also suggests that speedster Mallex Smith will likely head to Triple-A Durham once Rasmus is healthy enough to rejoin the Major League roster. Rasmus, who signed a one-year, $5MM contract with Tampa Bay this winter, is recovering from offseason hip surgery.