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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Manny Machado not interested in dealing with Yankee-related questions

Manny Machado of the Padres strikes out to

Manny Machado of the Padres strikes out to end the first inning against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

When Manny Machado returned to the Bronx on Monday, as a $300-million Padre this time, we had some questions.

Unfortunately, many of them had to do with the Yankees, such as his spurned attempt to sign with them over the winter, and whether there are any mixed emotions about not getting to call the Stadium home.

Manny wasn’t having that.

And because this isn’t Machado’s first go-round in these parts, after sharing the AL East for seven years as an Oriole, he had a pretty good idea where our conversation would be headed. So being a smart guy, in addition to an uber-talented shortstop, Machado tried to stop that line of inquiry before we got the first words out.

No Yankee-related questions. Or the interview was over.

Playing by those ground rules didn’t leave much else for us as a New York-based media outlet that spent years imagining him in pinstripes. But there were a few interesting highlights from his Bronx visit, and at the top of that short list was Machado getting booed every time he got near the batter’s box during the Yankees’ 5-2 victory.

The Memorial Day sellout crowd of 46,254 cranked up the volume — as only the big house in the Bronx can — and Machado played right into their hands until his leadoff double in the ninth inning. He struck out, popped up to second and bounced into a double play in his first three at-bats.

Afterward, when asked about the booing, Machado shrugged it off.

Was he surprised by the vitriol hurled at him?

“You’re in New York,” Machado said. “I get booed everywhere I go. Great players get booed, so. It happens.”

What followed was a back-and-forth that went longer than necessary but was quite amusing, which is why we’ll include a rundown (Manny’s remarks are in quotation marks).

Was this more booing than usual?

“I just answered that question.”

So where would you rate these?

“How can you compare?”

By decibel level?

“A boo’s a boo.”

That’s when Machado finally steered everyone in a different direction with the capper: “Well, we took the L. That sucks. There’s nothing worse than that, so.”

We do find it ironic that Machado was booed by many of the same people who clamored to sign him as a free agent. His only crime was that he never got an offer from the Yankees, so there was nothing for him to reject. He got only as far as a December meeting with the Yankees’ front office at the Stadium, followed by dinner in Manhattan.

Machado wanted to play for the Yankees but they didn’t want him, even though they had just lost All-Star shortstop Didi Gregorius to Tommy John surgery and there was some uncertainty about Miguel Andujar’s long-term future at third base.

Shortly after Opening Day, it was easier to second-guess Brian Cashman’s thinking on Machado when Andjuar suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that eventually required season-ending surgery. But by the time Andujar went under the knife, Gio Urshela’s star already was on the rise.

If we’re talking about the void Machado could have filled at third base, it’s remarkable that Urshela has performed at a level similar to that of the four-time All-Star through the first two months of the season. But don’t take this out of context. The fact that Urshela is hitting .328 with an .834 OPS, two homers and 20 RBIs through 43 games, as compared with Machado batting .267 with a .788 OPS, nine homers and 26 RBIs through 53 games, is a small sample size presented for entertainment purposes.

Urshela has been a dream discovery for the Yankees, at the bargain price of $555,000. Obviously, he’s not in the same universe as Machado, but we doubt Cashman regrets his decision to pass. And five years from now, when Machado can opt out of his 10-year contract, maybe he’ll wind up in the Bronx anyway. Stranger things have happened.

But on Monday, Machado was a Padre, and we’ll assume he’s OK with it. For the record, he even hustled from the box when his 111-mph bullet one-hopped the leftfield wall, narrowly beating the throw to second.

On the field, Machado handled himself fine in New York. His clubhouse charm could use some polishing, however.

When a reporter finally asked him if he thought Yankee Stadium was going to be his home, Machado got annoyed. “Is that a baseball question?” he said. “Or did you get here late?”

And with that, the conversation did end, almost 3  1⁄2 minutes after it began. Machado said he had a bus to catch.

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