Machado feels prepared to fill in for Iglesias

Machado feels prepared to fill in for Iglesias

ARLINGTON -- Dixon Machado has been here before, playing shortstop at Globe Life Park. This was a stop on the Tigers' final road trip last season. He remembers it for more than the rookie dress-up ritual he had to do.

For most of September, Machado was the Tigers' regular shortstop, replacing an injured Jose Iglesias. He did more than hold his own, providing his share of highlight plays to remind people that Iglesias isn't the only defensively gifted shortstop in Detroit's system. He also provided enough to make Tigers officials confident there'd be no dropoff if he had to cover short for a stretch again in the future.

Thus, once Iglesias' nagging hamstring left the Tigers with little choice but to put him on the 15-day disabled list on Friday, Machado was scratched from Toledo's lineup and put on a flight to Dallas.

"Kind of a no-brainer move," manager Brad Ausmus said.

Machado, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Tigers' No. 14 prospect, arrived Saturday morning with a smaller bag of nerves than he carried with him last season.

"I feel confident," Machado said before going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the Tigers' 2-0 win on Saturday night, "because I played most of the games last September, so I know how it is playing every day. It is great, that experience of being up there. It helps me a lot. It helped me become a better player."

Offensively, he's a slightly better player he was last season. His .266 (115-for-432) average at Toledo is five points higher than it was in 2016, but 56 walks in 117 games -- the third-highest walk total in the International League -- helped him raise his on-base percentage 43 points to .356, much closer to his standout 2014 numbers that raised his profile as a potential Major Leaguer.

Still, whatever Machado provides offensively is a bonus. The Tigers called up the 24-year-old Venezuelan for his defense. He doesn't have to provide the super plays to fill the job, but he has to be consistent. The comfort level should help.

"I'm not worried about him," Ausmus said. "First time he came up, he seemed a little starry-eyed, but since then he's been fine."

Another asset should be Machado's physical fitness. He wore down near the end of the Triple-A season last year, and it took the adrenaline of a big league opportunity to energize him. This year, despite leading the International League in games played and at-bats, he has put up some of his better numbers as the hot Midwestern summer has worn on. He hit 14-for-40 in August for the Mud Hens, boasts a 25-to-16 walk-to-strikeout ratio since July 1, and hasn't committed an error since July 26.

"I've been working out at least two or three times a week during the season, and I feel that maintained me pretty good," Machado said. "I remember last year when it was July, I was really exhausted, really tired. Now I don't feel that bad. I feel pretty good."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.