The healing powers of 21-year-old Manny Machado appear to be as epic as his game.
The best news during a rough offseason for the Baltimore Orioles came Thursday night, when the Baltimore Sun reported that Machado was 6-8 weeks ahead of schedule in his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery. Opening day is a realistic return target.
One of the top young players in the league, Machado played elite defense at third base while batting .283/.314/.432 with 14 home runs, a league-leading 51 doubles and 6.5 wins above replacement in 2013. But he had reconstructive surgery on his left knee October 14 to repair a torn medial patellofemoral ligament after he injured it running to first base in the final week of the regular season. The recovery time is usually 4-6 months, and Machado is three months into rehab.
He was examined Thursday by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the surgery and apparently gave him good news. Another encouraging note: Machado has a history of dislocating his knee cap, so the procedure is expected to curb that as well.
In all, it's terrific progress in an offseason that has felt a little backward to some after the O's lost Scott Feldman, Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth and Jim Johnson, and did not add Grant Balfour (because of injury concerns) after he was on the verge of signing. The Orioles have averaged 89 victories the past two seasons, and new players such as Jemile Weeks, David Lough and Alexi Casilla aren't an obvious net improvement for a club hoping to return to the postseason.
If Machado can start playing in Orioles' spring training games by March 15 or so, manager Buck Showalter has said, he will project to be ready by opening day.
Such an outcome didn't seem likely in October.
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