Orioles third baseman Manny Machado told Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports that he still considers Alex Rodriguez a "great friend" even as the Yankees slugger serves a 162-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Rodriguez tweeted a photo of himself and Machado together at a Jay Z concert in Florida this past January, and the two also hail from Miami-area high schools.
That fact, along with both players displaying impressive talent at a young age, has led to frequent comparisons between Machado and Rodriguez ever since the Orioles selected Machado with the third overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft.
"You can hang out with who you want," Machado told Rosenthal. "He's my friend. He's done nothing wrong to me. He has been nothing but a great friend to me."
Machado added that Rodriguez has given him fielding and hitting tips over the years, as well as providing advice off the field.
The 22-year-old did make clear that he does not agree with A-Rod's use of PEDs, telling Rosenthal, "What he has done, it is what it is. He did what he did. Do I put him on a pedestal for that? No. But he's still my friend. That's not going to change."
The slick-fielding Machado is having a down season after a strong 2013 campaign. Through 56 games in 2014, Machado is batting .246/.295/.375 with seven home runs and eight doubles. He did miss the first month of the season after recovering from knee surgery he underwent last September.
In 2013, Machado batted .283/.314/.432 with 14 home runs and an AL-leading 51 doubles at the age of 21.
Machado did stoke controversy earlier this season when he threw a bat towards third base in the direction of Josh Donaldson in a game against the A's in May. Donaldson and Machado had feuded earlier in the series after the Baltimore third baseman took exception to a hard tag from his Oakland counterpart.
Machado has since apologized for the incident and hasn't displayed any bad behavior since.
Despite this and Rodriguez's controversial season-long suspension from MLB, Machado remains close with A-Rod and doesn't plan on that changing anytime soon.