BALTIMORE - Their playoff hopes for this season all but vanquished, the sight of Manny Machado lying in a crumpled heap at first base, clutching his left knee, cast doubt on the Orioles' prospects in 2014.
On Tuesday evening, more than 24 hours after Machado fell awkwardly running through first base in Tampa Bay, Orioles' manager Buck Showalter, general manager Dan Duquette and head athletic trainer Richie Bancells gathered the media to deliver the good news: Machado has a torn medial patellofemoral ligament and will be ready to play next season.
"The MCL is fine; the ACL is fine," said Bancells. "All those major ligaments are fine. This is a smaller ligament and what it does is it keeps your patella from sliding laterally. So in his injury, his knee was in a position that his kneecap, or his patella, slid laterally, putting pressure on that ligament and causing it to tear."
The prescription, in the immediate, is rest and treatment, what the Orioles are calling the "conservative" approach. In four weeks, Machado will be re-evaluated by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens.
If Machado's knee is progressing, he'll begin light jogging and other "functional" activities, to use Bancells' term, in late October or early November.
Should Machado require surgery, he'll need six-to-eight weeks of recovery time from the date of the procedure.
"Manny's going to solicit a second opinion and see if the conservative treatment is the way to go, but if everything falls into place like we think, this is something that he could recover from with rest," said Duquette. "Of course, he would be out for the rest of the season but he would be able to come back and play for next year."
This isn't the first time Machado has suffered the injury. In 2011, at the age of 18, while playing for the Orioles' Single-A affiliate in Delmarva, his kneecap slid out of place and forced him to miss some time.
Bancells says Machado's injury is most common in adolescent athletes.
"It's funny, Manny said he had it when he was 18 and I'm like, gosh that was a long time ago," said Showalter. "Then he reminded me that was only a couple of years ago. He had to remind me."
Machado's first full season in the big leagues concludes with an American League-best 51 doubles - Oakland's Jed Lowrie is next, with 44, entering Tuesday's play. He ends with a slash line .283/.314/.432, 14 home runs and 71 RBI.
Considering what the diagnosis could have been, the Orioles can collectively breathe a sigh of relief.
"It's good news for the clubhouse, as much for the person as for the team," said Showalter. "They all really respect Manny and the way he's carried himself this year and the way he's handled himself."