SARASOTA, Fla. -- That was the question posed to manager Buck Showalter on Monday afternoon after top infield prospect Jonathan Schoop delivered another strong offensive performance in the Orioles' 9-2 exhibition loss to the Minnesota Twins.
"I wouldn’t use the word force,'' Showalter said. "I would say that he’s competing for the job and there’s nobody ahead of him or behind for the job. It's way too early. ... He's as much in the mix as he was the day he got here. In my mind, I can tell you for sure, there’s nothing in stone about where he’s going to start the year – down or up. In fact, we made sure he knows that. We have [Jemile] Weeks and Ryan [Flaherty] and the good thing is all three of those guys have options. He’s certainly very much in the mix."
The Orioles have shown over the past two years that they are willing to give a young player a chance to stick at the major league level. They have brought up each of their last three top prospects earlier than expected.
Of course, there could be other front office considerations that affect Schoop, but Showalter was speaking from a purely managerial perspective.
"You asked my opinion," he said. "We’re going to take the first 25. That stuff has a way of working out anyway. And it looks like we’re going to face a left-handed pitcher on Opening Day."
Schoop homered in each of the intrasquad games last week and has four hits (two doubles) and three RBI in six Grapefruit League at-bats.
Gausman makes spring debut
Orioles pitching prospect Kevin Gausman retired the first five batters he faced Monday before allowing a run with two outs in the fourth inning.
“I felt good,” Gausman said. “More than anything right now it’s kind of feeling your body, working all your pitches and trying to try to find the bottom half of the zone.”
Gausman issued a two-out walk to Chris Colabello and then yielded back-to-back singles by Jason Kubel and Wilkin Ramirez. Kubel was thrown out at third by center fielder Adam Jones to end the inning.
“I got [the count to] 3-2 on him and tried to do a little bit too much, Gausman said of the walk to Colabello. “I think I tried to make too perfect of a pitch and I yanked it a little bit.”
Gausman’s fastball sat near 95 mph throughout his outing.
Around the horn
Right-hander Alfredo Aceves threw a perfect relief inning in his first spring appearance. He is slated to throw two innings in his next outing and then three frames after that. … The Orioles re-signed left-hander Chris Jones to a Triple-A contract. Jones was designated for assignment to make roster space for Cruz last week and subsequently released. He will report to the club’s minor league camp at Twin Lakes Park.