But the news was not as bad as feared, as an MRI revealed Tuesday that Machado had not torn any major ligaments. The All-Star third baseman tore his medial patellofemoral ligament, which Orioles trainer Richie Bancells described as a smaller ligament that keeps the kneecap from sliding laterally.
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The news left club officials relieved after a tense day awaiting the diagnosis on their brightest young star.
“It’s good news for the clubhouse, as much for the person as for the team,” said manager Buck Showalter. “I know they’ve come to really respect Manny for the way he carries himself and the way he’s presented himself.”
Asked earlier about Machado’s mindset, Showalter said the injury “scared him a lot.”
“In general, baseball players with that injury can get back to playing at a high level,” said Daryl Osbahr, an orthopedic surgeon and director of sports medicine research at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital.
Machado, who was at the ballpark Tuesday but did not speak with reporters, will seek a second opinion, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. He is expected to return for a check-up with team orthopedist John Wilckens in four weeks.
Duquette said Machado suffered a similar injury on the same kneecap when he played for Class-A Delmarva in 2011.
That could be a reason to consider surgery instead of treating the injury with rest, said Osbahr, the Union Memorial surgeon. He said Machado’s doctors will also want to check for related injuries such as cartilage damage around the kneecap.
“The decision on whether to treat it with surgery or not is a complex one,” Osbahr said.
With three straight losses to the wild-card-leading Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles had essentially forfeited their postseason chances before Machado collapsed to the field in agony.
But the tone rapidly shifted to funereal Monday evening as images of the fallen wunderkind beamed across the country. Teammates stared silently from the dugout as Machado yowled in pain. From around the sports world, condolences and prayers flooded Twitter.
Fans remained aghast at the injury as they filed into Camden Yards on Tuesday for the first game of the season’s final homestand.
“It was awful,” said Steve Hood of Baltimore, who watched the injury happen live on television. “I thought it was at least a year he would be out.”
Nick Draksler of Baltimore said his wife “freaked out” as he repeatedly watched a clip of the injury on YouTube.
“If it was as bad as I thought it was ... he might never be able to play back to where he was,” Draksler said.
He felt better Tuesday evening as news of the diagnosis emerged.
“If he can function normally in spring training, he should be OK,” Draksler said. “And I think it might even save the whole franchise, because the Orioles need catalyst players to keep the momentum going.”