It hasn't been the most inspiring season for Manny Machado so far, but on Thursday, he got some good news: His bat has awoken and he's headed to Kansas City.
MLB.com's No. 3 overall prospect collected three hits and four RBIs, going deep for the second time this month in the Bowie Baysox's 8-5 win over the host Erie SeaWolves. The game, coming hours after he was selected to the U.S. squad in the All-Star Futures Game, only helped keep his outlook bright after early-season struggles.
"I felt great. The last couple days I've been swinging well, feeling comfortable at the plate, seeing the ball well," he said. "The team's been playing well, so that's an energy boost. I'm just going up there and having fun."
Machado had endured his share of struggles this year and hasn't posted the numbers some have projected in his first Double-A season. But consider that when Machado, who is 15 days from his 20th birthday, finally broke out Thursday afternoon, he did so against a pitcher more than eight years his senior.
"I'm not worrying about what's going on with my average, I'm just going out and playing hard," he said. "Whatever happens, happens -- just have fun, basically."
Batting fifth, Machado singled home two runs in the first inning and smacked a solo shot in the third against 27-year-old left-hander Ramon Garcia, who has been pitching in the Minors since 2005.
The right-handed-hitting infielder also delivered an RBI single in the fourth facing reliever Michael Morrison and popped out in the seventh and drew a walk in the eighth to complete his day.
"We had runners second and third, I put the ball in play and fortunately, I got a base hit up the middle," Machado said of his first hit. "Two runs scored and I just had a good at-bat."
Machado's homer was his second since April, although he didn't let on whether it was a relief to see it fly out.
"I was just trying to be aggressive. I took the first pitch and he threw me the same pitch after that, so I knew what he would throw me," Machado said. "I put a good swing on it and hit a home run."
Machado has hits in nine of his last 10 ballgames, hiking his season batting average from .233 to .249 over that span. His fourth homer was his first since June 2; he didn't go deep once in May. (Expectations had risen when he homered on the season's first pitch.) Just two years removed from being the third overall pick in the 2010 Draft, the Miami-bred Machado has collected 22 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs through 68 games.
Despite the struggles at times, Machado said his experience in the Eastern League has been a positive one so far.
"It's been great -- great competition and great players," he said. "It's a tough league and I'm getting used to it, just getting adjusted to it. It's a tough league to play in, you're facing the top-of-the-line pitchers and players from each organization."
Machado, of course, fits that description: He's ranked No. 1 in the Orioles' organization and No. 3 overall by MLB.com. Before the game, Major League Baseball announced Machado would be headed back to the All-Star Futures Game for his second straight year.
"Oh man, it's going to be awesome," Machado said. "I went last year, and that was a great experience. To be a part of it again this year, it's a good opportunity and chance to meet good players ... go out, have fun and meet new guys."
Garcia (5-6) yielded five runs on seven hits -- including Orioles' No. 3 prospect Jonathan Schoop's second-inning solo shot -- over three frames.
Baysox starter Sean Gleason (2-1) gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings. Closer Greg Burke earned his 14th save with the two seamless final frames.
A day after flirting with the cycle, Erie third baseman and Tigers No. 2 prospect Nick Castellanos went 2-for-5, raising his Double-A average to .286.