WASHINGTON — The Los Angeles Dodgers are making preparations to welcome Manny Machado into their pennant race.
Los Angeles entered the All-Star break with a narrow half-game lead over second-place Arizona in the NL West, and there’s a good chance the Dodgers will begin play Friday in Milwaukee with a four-time All-Star at shortstop.
Machado will undoubtedly be dealt by the Baltimore Orioles before the July non-waiver trade deadline, and speculation is centering upon a Wednesday swap with Los Angeles.
“I had a conversation with Manny. He’s a great guy, man, and we would love to have him here,” Dodgers All-Star pitcher Kenley Jansen said Tuesday night.
The Dodgers begin a 10-game road trip out of the break, and they’d love to have Machado dressed in Dodger blue.
“I think the sky’s the limit. We can do damage,” Jansen said. “Let’s see what’s going to happen.”
If Machado heads to the Dodgers, he will likely get to wear his coveted No. 13, now worn by first baseman Max Muncy.
“He deserves that number,” Jansen said.
In spite of the media that followed his every move, Machado did his best Tuesday to enjoy himself. He walked the red carpet shirtless in a double-breasted suit, took a couple selfies on the field and smiled through six innings of carefree baseball.
When he was done, Machado peeled off his Orioles uniform for perhaps the final time.
Then he walked out of Nationals Stadium with his family, not bothering to stick around after the game to answer another round of questions about a potential trade that would end his stay in Baltimore — perhaps before the Orioles return from the break to play in Toronto on Friday night.
In the meantime, Machado was the center of attention before and during the first All-Star Game in Washington since 1969.
A huge media throng buzzed around his locker prior to batting practice. During BP, Machado joked with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp outside the cage.
Then came the game. Machado went 0 for 2 — a fly ball and a popup — before exiting for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning.
“I’m just trying to enjoy this moment with the American League guys,” Machado told FOX in the dugout. “If this is the last time (in a Baltimore uniform), hopefully I treated them well and did everything I can for the organization.”
Walking out toward the exit ramp, Machado ran into Nick Markakis, a longtime former teammate now with the Atlanta Braves. They hugged, shook hands and walked away.
Earlier, the pair crossed paths on the field.
“I ran up to him and he started reaching into his pocket. I didn’t know what he was doing,” Markakis said. “Pulled out his phone. We took a picture on the field. It was a pretty cool moment. Pretty cool for him to do. I enjoyed my time playing with him. He’s a great teammate, a great dude. Whatever happens with him after today, I wish him luck.”
It appears as if Los Angeles is going to be the place to be for Machado, who’s batting .315 with 24 homers and 65 RBIs.
“Things are getting serious now,” Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling said. “That’s the kind of bat and the kind of player that you want in your lineup.”
Kemp, a three-time All-Star, said of Machado: “He’s actually one of my favorite players to watch. I hit with him in the offseason two years ago. He’s a great player. If that’s something that happens I think LA would be excited about it and (it would) definitely help our team win more games.”
In his first at-bat Tuesday night, Machado hit a routine fly to Kemp in left field. Then, after Kemp doubled in the second inning, Machado walked to second base and clicked a “selfie” with the player who could be his future teammate.
All the speculation, the repetitive questions and the crowds around his locker couldn’t put a damper on the All-Star experience for Machado, who has never played for any big league team but the Orioles.
“It’s awesome,” Machado said beforehand. “Every time you put on the Oriole uniform it’s always a great blessing, and you always want the opportunity to put that on. Just put it on, go play shortstop when I get my name announced. I know there’s going to be some Baltimore fans out there, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Machado insisted he knew nothing of a deal.
“I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I’m just worried about the game today, and whatever happens moving forward will happen. There will be a time and place for everything.”
In the meantime, he’s been trying to cope with an uncertain future.
“He’s got to be going through some emotions. It’s probably tough for him,” said Mike Trout, whose locker was next to Machado’s. “I’m sure he wants this thing to be over.”
Machado is under contract through the end of the season, but the Orioles can’t afford to provide him to a new, huge deal as well as rebuild a team that currently stands in last place in the AL East.
By the end of the week, he could be wearing a new uniform and playing in a different league.