SARASOTA, Fla. — The Yankees got their first spring-training look at potential free-agent target Manny Machado on Wednesday.
And Aaron Judge said he took the opportunity to make his pitch to the Baltimore third baseman-turned-shortstop, who is due to become one of the top two free-agent bats next offseason.
“I told him he’d look good in pinstripes,’’ Judge said of his conversation with Machado before a 7-4 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. “He just kind of laughed it off.”
The Yankees’ potential pursuit of Machado figures to be serious. The 25-year-old will hit the market along with the Nationals’ Bryce Harper to head a very expensive free-agent class.
Back at his natural position, shortstop, Machado got two more hits and is 16-for-34 with four doubles and three homers this spring.
Machado’s manager, former Yankees skipper Buck Showalter, declined to speculate on how the perennial All-Star would fare if he landed in The Bronx, but said “he can fit in anywhere.”
Showalter added, “I like him here” and said he hopes the Orioles play well enough to keep him the entire season instead of trading him.
Either way, the Orioles’ skipper made it clear he didn’t believe the impending frenzy about his future will overwhelm Machado.
“Being that good, you’re always gonna be scrutinized,” said Showalter, the only manager Machado has played for in the majors. “Manny’s had that since his junior or senior year of high school. He’s handled expectations and I think he’s embraced it and handled it beyond his years.”
Still, Showalter acknowledged the spotlight Machado is about to be under is something he has yet to deal with.
“He’s had a lot of experience at [being scrutinized] on different settings,” Showalter said. “Maybe not quite like this, but he almost welcomes it. He handles it fine. … He knows it’s gonna happen. He’s ready for it.”
He’s seemed to thrive under the glare — and with his return to shortstop.
“This is probably the best spring he’s had so far,” Showalter said. “He’s really excited about getting back to his normal position. All the stars are lined up for him on a lot of fronts — the very last one is impending free agency. It’s about the team and the position we need him to play.”
But it’s where Machado winds up next season that intrigues much of the sport.
“He’s one heck of a player,” Judge said. “He’s been doing it quite a few years [at] the best level. … He’s gonna be a happy man when it comes to free agency. To add him to our lineup, it would be something special.”
Before that happens, of course, the Yankees have an important season in front of them — and Judge’s performance will largely dictate how far they go.
He went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts Wednesday and is now just 4-for-23 with a double and a homer this spring.
Aaron Boone said Judge is scheduled to DH on Thursday, playing for a third straight day.
“I think he’s in a good place and I think he’s close,” Boone said.
Judge insists the shoulder he had surgically repaired in November is fine and is encouraged by how he feels.
“I’m fiddling around with different hand placements and approaches,” Judge said. “I’m more focused with how I feel at the plate and if I’m swinging at the right pitches. … I’ve got two weeks [until Opening Day]. Perfect. I’m right on track. If I’m healthy, it’s all good.”