Machado focused on present, not future

With free agency looming after 2018, star excited to be part of 'special group'

Machado focused on present, not future

SARASOTA -- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado looked around the clubhouse on Saturday morning and smiled.

"We got a couple different faces, but I think we got a real good group here," he said. "A special group that's going to surprise a lot of people."

Machado, who will be a free agent after the 2018 season, is one of several Orioles who could be nearing the end of their time in Baltimore. He's gearing up for an unusual spring, in which he'll play a handful of games at shortstop early before leaving to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. He's excited to represent his country, to play in front of his family.

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But mostly, the 24-year-old Machado is excited for this Orioles team, which was eliminated by Toronto in last year's American League Wild Card Game, to pick up right where it left off.

"I'm excited for this year, I'm excited for this team," Machado said. "I think we have a really good group of guys that are going to impress a lot of guys and impress a lot of people out there. I'm looking forward to the season a lot."

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Machado, who reiterated Saturday that there has been no talk between his camp and the Orioles about a contract extension, doesn't want to continue to be asked about his future. He says he's not worried about it and is trying to focus on enjoying this moment, this team and this season.

"Everyone wants to be the last team standing, and you know, it's something I think we're getting closer and closer to. I think we have a taste of what it feels like to win and what it takes to get there," Machado said.

"I want to say we have the best group of guys in there to try to make that push. It's not always about the big team or the aces and the horses and the million-dollar contracts you bring in guys [on]. It's about, 'Who are the 25 guys in this clubhouse who are going to go out there and grind every day?' I see it as who do you want to look to your side and know he's going to have your back no matter what and know he's going to grind. ... So much more of that goes into winning than just having the big knockers or those aces on the mound. Obviously that helps a little bit, but when you put good people around you and people that want it more than anyone else, it counts a lot more."

Machado will leave camp on March 5, and he has already laid out his early Grapefruit League schedule with Orioles manager Buck Showalter. He said he'll probably play in six or seven of the team's first 11 games and isn't worried about being fatigued for the 162-game season.

"You also don't want to go in and play too many games early on [in the spring] and get tired. I know we're going to play quite a few games in the Classic," Machado said. "You don't want to play too many games as well because I don't want to get fatigued for the year. There are a lot of things Buck sees where later on you kind of sit back and realize why he does it, so I kind of put a perspective on that as well."

Machado expects to play some shortstop and some third base for the Dominican Republic's team, and could be gone for up to three weeks. He's one of five players on the O's 40-man roster who will be participating in the WBC, along with catcher Welington Castillo (also playing for the Dominican Republic), Jonathan Schoop (Netherlands) and Adam Jones and Mychal Givens (USA).

"People take a lot of pride in [representing their country]. I know I am, and I know my family's going to be excited to see where I'm at at this stage and see me representing the country that they were born and raised in," Machado said. "I'm excited for it. Hopefully, this continues. I know I'm going to love it. That's what everybody says. They love it when they go in there."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.