BAL@TOR: Machado plates a pair with a double to left

TORONTO -- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado burst out of the gates to start the season and is hitting his way into some elite company.

Machado, 20, entered play Saturday with the second-most hits in the Majors with 70, while his 21 doubles are three more than any player in the game. According to STATS, Machado's hit total is the most by any player under the age of 21 in Major League history before the start of June since 1921, surpassing the 66 hits Ken Griffey Jr. recorded in 1990.

It's not just Griffey whose name Machado is associated with these days. In Friday's win, Machado recorded his fifth consecutive three-hit game on the road, becoming the only player since Ty Cobb in 1907 to accomplish that feat, according to Elias. No other player in Orioles history has ever had five straight road games with three hits or more.

And after clubbing three doubles in Baltimore's series opener against the Blue Jays on Thursday, Machado became just the third Orioles player in franchise history to do that twice in the same season. He's respected among his peers well beyond his years and is turning heads with his abilities on both sides of the diamond..

"He's one of those guys. They're rare," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They get to the big leagues quick and then it's all success. Right now, he's locked in. He's just a good hitter; he'll use the whole field."

Machado has made a lot of noise with his bat and glove during Baltimore's trip in Toronto. He turned a double play in Friday's victory that had his teammates talking postgame, and he also raised his batting average to .335, sixth best in the American League.

O's manager Buck Showalter described Machado as a sponge who has too much pride to ever be satisfied with his ability.

"He's willing to put in the work, and it has paid off for him," Showalter said. "He has taken it to another level defensively for us."

Advanced defensive metrics back Showalter's assertion. According to Fangraphs.com, Machado's nine defensive runs saved this season is the top mark among all players in the American League, and he is well outpacing any third baseman.

"He's so relaxed. Confident, no panic and he swings it," Gibbons said.

Strop placed on 15-day DL; Johnson called up

TORONTO -- The Orioles placed reliever Pedro Strop on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain, retroactive to May 24, and recalled right-hander Steve Johnson from Triple-A Norfolk.

Manager Buck Showalter was mulling his options until the start of Saturday's contest against the Blue Jays, admitting prior to the game there were a few different ways the Orioles could lean after summoning Johnson to Toronto. But the club elected to place Strop on the DL, who said he has been dealing with pain in his back for the last couple weeks.

Strop said he was worried and has been thinking about his back for a little while, but he doesn't want to blame his early season struggles on the injury. The 27-year-old has a 6.11 ERA and has walked 14 batters over 17 2/3 innings of work.

"Sometimes you have something going on in your body that's not right," said Strop, who allowed two runs and issued a pair of walks on Thursday against Toronto. "I was just thinking about myself and my career, and what is the best for me in this moment, this time. It finally got to the point where I thought, 'OK, this has got to be fixed.'"

The Dominican Republic native, who hopes to be activated right when eligible, said this was the right move to make instead of fighting through the pain and potentially being forced to sit out longer later in the season.

Showalter said Strop's back pain is an issue that has been lingering too long for the club's liking.

"Trying to get it completely taken care out," Showalter said. "It might even be good for him in the long run, too."

Johnson, meanwhile, was called on immediately, logging 2 2/3 innings in Baltimore's 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. Despite allowing a pair of runs in the eighth, Showalter was pleased with Johnson's effort. The right-hander punched out five batters in his first relief appearance of the season.

"That was big to get him in here," Showalter said. "I had three [relievers] I was not going to pitch today."

Despite starting at Norfolk, where he went 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA, Johnson will work exclusively as a reliever while he's up with the Orioles. The 25-year-old logged 38 1/2 innings in 2012, his first season in the Majors, making eight relief appearances.