Baltimore Orioles can afford to be patient with Jonathan Schoop

When Jonathan Schoop, currently rehabbing for Double-A Bowie, returns to the lineup, the Baltimore Orioles will finally have their full projected Opening Day lineup available, provided the nagging shoulder injury that has kept Adam Jones out of the lineup the past two days does not persist. Schoop has not played since spraining his right knee on April 18 in a game against the Boston Red Sox. Schoop has played in four games for the Baysox, and has had no issue playing the field.

The Orioles, however, thanks to the steady play of Ryan Flaherty, have the luxury of bringing Schoop along slowly. Flaherty, who had shown flashes of power when used as a role player the past three seasons, has handled the everyday second base duties effectively. He will not put up eye-popping numbers, but Flaherty has career-highs across the entire slash line. He has also been incredibly steady in the field, with only one error and a .993 fielding percentage.

“He’ll still come up here and have to get his feet wet,” manager Buck Showalter told MLB.com. “We’re not going to get in a hurry with him. Obviously, Ryan Flaherty is playing pretty well, so we’re not going to push the envelope.”

Schoop clearly has more upside than Flaherty, and could project to All-Star status down the road given his power potential. Though he played in only nine games this season, Schoop was showing marked improvement in his approach at the plate following a rookie season that saw him walk only 13 times in 481 plate appearances. His free-swinging ways negated the 16 home runs he produced, thanks to a .244 on-base percentage.

As Schoop’s return nears, the Orioles have been on a tear, winning 14 of the past 18 games. This, after a slump that dropped their record to 23-29. If the Orioles are to claim their second consecutive American League East title, Jonathan Schoop will need to play a big role in producing runs from the bottom of the order. With a healthy Schoop and J.J. Hardy anchoring the bottom of the batting order, the Orioles’ lineup should rival the strength of division rival Toronto, one through nine. For that to happen, however, the Orioles need Schoop at 100-percent health. Knee injuries can be tricky, especially for a second baseman whose job description includes plenty of lateral movement. The Orioles are taking their time to make sure the knee is fully healed before subjecting Schoop to the rigors of playing every day in the Major Leagues. Ryan Flaherty has made it easier to do this, and his improved play will make it easier for the Orioles to ease Schoop back into the lineup gradually as well as rest him when he does assume the everyday starting spot.

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