Manny Machado gets surprise callup by Orioles, who will play him at 3B

The Orioles announced late Wednesday night they are calling up their own 20-year-old wunderkind Manny Machado, and word is manager Buck Showalter plans to use him as the team's starting third baseman.

The great shortstop prospect Machado is an Alex Rodriguez disciple with tools almost to match. The Miami product, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 draft, is seen as a superb talent as a hitter, thrower and gloveman, with the only non-exceptional tool being his speed, which is average.

The quick call is a surprise, however, and so is the plan to play him at third base in the short-term. He played only two games there at Double-A Bowie.

"He's really good, one of the top ten prospects in MLB,'' one rival GM said, who nonetheless went on to express some skepticism about the surprise promotion.

"I still think it's too early to recall him,'' that GM said. "Just because he's better than Wilson Betemit doesn't mean it's the right move for the kid.''

The Orioles, a surprise contender at 60-51, which puts them tied with the Tigers and A's for the two wild-card spots, still view Machado as a shortstop long-term. But third base is their area of need now.

Showalter has been envisioning Machado as the team's third baseman next year. But few expected the plan to move him to third to be put into effect immediately. His glove and arm could make it an easy transition, but it will be seen as something of a gamble.

With J.J. Hardy playing well at shortstop and the Orioles needy at third, it's the spot that makes sense, so long as Machado is ready. He was hitting .266 at Bowie with a .352 on-base percentage and .438 slugging percentage, but stronger numbers since the All-Star break, including a slugging percentage over .500, convinced Orioles people his time is now.

Mark Reynolds has struggled this year, batting .212 with only nine home runs. Wilson Betemit has hit better (.263 with 12 home runs) but he is a poor defender at third.

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