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Manny Machado looks right at home with Los Angeles Dodgers, even if it's only temporary

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 7/21/2018 Bob Nightengale
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MILWAUKEE — Manny Machado, wearing a new uniform, a new number, and playing with new teammates Friday, looked as if he’s been with the Los Angeles Dodgers his entire career.

He was relaxed meeting his teammates, comfortable answering questions in front of the horde of media, and coy when talking about his pending free agency.

He might be the newest and biggest star in Los Angeles, but he wanted to let the paparazzi know they’d be wasting their time looking for him in Hollywood. He plans to play baseball, enjoy the weather, occasionally hit a few good restaurants, and live the simple life.

“I am a low-key guy, I’m here to play baseball,’’ Machado said. “Obviously love LA, been there before quite a few times. My wife loves it. My family does as well. We’re just looking forward to enjoying the beautiful weather that’s out there.

“I’ll play baseball, and whatever I do out there will reflect and talk for itself.‘’

Machado wanted to make his arrival so low-key that he didn’t even bother asking to keep his same uniform No. 13 as he wore his entire career in Baltimore. He switched to No. 8, not for the number worn by Orioles Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken, but for former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

Yes, even though he’s actually a Miami Heat fan, but because his wife is a Lakers fan, and their dog is named “Kobe.’’

“I wanted to change it up,” said Machado, who reached base three times in his first three at bats in his Dodgers debut, making sure his first hit was taken out of the game for a keepsake. “New beginning, new journey, new team, so I wanted to go that route. At the end of the day, I have to throw an athlete out there. Huge Kobe fan growing up.

“He won a lot of championships in Los Angeles. I want to win one, too.’’

Machado, who was in the Orioles' clubhouse and packing his bags Wednesday when he got the news he was headed to Los Angeles, said he was thrilled by the destination. Oh, to be honest, the New York Yankees were his first preference, but the Dodgers had the biggest need, filling the void left by injured shortstop Corey Seager.

He’ll enjoy the weather in LA, meet the biggest stars, and when free agency rolls around in November, will be open for business, with the Yankees the heavy favorite to land him.

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Yet, no matter where he goes next season, he hopes he’s wearing a gaudy new championship ring, with the Dodgers immersed in a 30-year World Series drought after losing in seven games last year to the Houston Astros.

“I’m here to win,’’ said Machado, who hit .315 with 24 homers and 65 RBI for the Orioles before the All-Star break. “At the end of the day I want to win a ring. Everyone in there wants to win a ring. They fell a little short last year and they want to get back and win it. Whatever I can do to make the process easier or better as a team, I’m all for it.”

Now, of course, expectations in Los Angeles are a whole lot higher than a couple of days ago, with the Dodgers now considered the favorite to win the National League pennant.

“It’s nothing we haven’t had every year that I’ve been here,’’ Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We’re expected to win the World Series. That hasn’t changed.”

Machado will play primarily at shortstop, and bat second or third in the lineup, Roberts said, but will fill in occasionally at third base, where Machado has won two Gold Gloves.

Machado insists he doesn’t care, at least not now. He just wants to win, picking up 40 games in the standings with the trade.

“We think Manny was really the most impactful player that was on the market at the time,’’ Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi said. “I think any contender could see that he could make a positive impact. He is a special talent.’’

Now, his talents will be under the bright lights of Hollywood, gone forever from Baltimore, but never forgotten.

“The Baltimore Orioles will have a piece of my heart,’’ Machado said. "The organization’s given me a lot of opportunities, given me the pleasure as a kid to play baseball in the big leagues. I’ll definitely miss everyone out there. They’ve been great.

“Now, I’m ready to start this journey and keep wearing this blue.‘’

Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook.

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