Orioles 3B Manny Machado says he's running bases at 70 to 80 percent effort

SARASOTA, Fla. — Since Manny Machado's freak knee injury occurred last September under one of the most routine circumstances — his left knee buckled when his foot landed awkwardly as he rounded first base —the 21-year-old couldn't help but think about his return to running down the first-base line throughout his rehab.

"It's been crossing my mind running the bases just constantly," Machado said. "Obviously, that's the way the injury happened, so that is in my head. That's the only thing I remember from the injury. I don't remember the rehab. I really don't care about that. That's the only thing that's on my mind, how I injured that knee. So I want to get past that as fast as possible because that's the only thing that's going to keep me from being out there and playing games."

Machado began running through first base and landing on the bag last week. Base running is one of the final drills Machado has to perform before he can be fully cleared and return to games.

Right now, Machado still expects to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache on March 18 to get clearance to return to full competition. There was some thought to seeing ElAttrache on Tuesday, his next available day, but Machado said he won't be ready by then and doesn't want to rush it.

"I've got the strength there and I've done what I need to do to fix the way I run and fix the proper way to do things," Machado said. "I've gotten stronger in the places that need to be stronger for the injury not to happen again. I feel pretty good touching the bases. Definitely it wasn't running at 100 percent. That's just a process. "

Machado said he's running the bases at around 70 to 80 percent effort.

"I know I'll get up there," he said. "I don't think I'll be running the bases 100 percent for another week or so. Right now, I'm basically just cruising down the line. I feel fine running, and I feel fine doing everything else. I think right now I really don't want to run the bases 100 percent. I want to be smart about it, not go out there full go running down the bases. I ran to get a feel for stepping on the base again and again, feeling for how that is."

Offense continues to lead

The Orioles' power-packed lineup has gotten a lot of attention over the past couple seasons, and it looks like the hitters aren't ready to surrender the stage to the upgraded pitching staff.

In two games against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday and Sunday's 9-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium, the Orioles combined for 29 runs and 42 hits to sweep the weekend.

The Orioles also routed the Philadelphia Phillies, 15-4, on Friday after beating the Minnesota Twins, 11-5, on Wednesday.

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis remained hot in the win over the Pirates. He was 3-for-3 with an opposite-field home run that cleared everything in left-center field. Shortstop J.J. Hardy also homered, while right fielder Nick Markakis and second baseman Jonathan Schoop stayed on a Grapefruit League roll with two hits apiece.

Davis, Markakis and Schoop combined to go 7-for-9 over the first five innings Sunday and are batting a combined .565 in exhibition play.

"I have not read a stat sheet this spring and I won't," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I trust the people who are responsible for the pitching and the hitting and the defense, and I trust my eyes, and not some spring training stat. I think there's more in the tank. I'm OK with them playing real well."

Orioles make three cuts

The Orioles made three cuts on Sunday, reassigning first baseman Chris Marrero, right-hander Mike Wright and right-hander Fabio Castillo to minor league camp.

Marrero, who played parts of two seasons with the Washington Nationals in 2011 and 2013, was sidelined early in camp with an oblique injury he suffered while swinging. He has tested the injury multiple times since then without much improvement.

"It's frustrating for us, and I know him, too, because he was a guy we targeted in the offseason," Showalter said. "Every day, I can see he's wanting to go out and test it and test it, but that's not what you do with those things."

Showalter said he wanted Marrero to concentrate on getting healthy instead of competing for a roster spot. And when he does, Showalter said he will bring him back to play in a major league spring training game.

Showalter said Wright, who allowed one run in three innings in spring training, will go to minor league camp to get stretched out to pitch in the Triple-A Norfolk rotation.