SARASOTA, Fla. -- Top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop homered for the second straight day Thursday, hitting a solo homer off Bud Norris in the first inning of the Orioles' second intrasquad game.
Schoop’s homer was a blast to left-center field that hit the television camera platform well beyond the fence.
“Jon’s in a good place,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I think Jonathan has had some very good role models [in camp]. Like I’ve said before, it’s a matter of when, not if. That’s what we’re trying to judge here. He’s off to a pretty good start, if that’s possible.”
Second baseman Jemile Weeks added a pair of hits Thursday. Weeks was acquired from the Oakland Athletics this offseason in exchange for Jim Johnson.
“If you look at the whole context of everything, everyone would love to have Jimmy, but [trading him] also allowed us to sign [Ubaldo] Jimenez and [Nelson] Cruz and do some other things and hopefully we can offset his loss,” Showalter said. “Jemile has a chance to impact us as a second baseman here. … He’s fit right in. He’s a plus runner. A lot of people forget this guy hit .300 in the big league for a season. … You know it’s there. And it also gives us flexibility with him having an option. But we’re not going to use that against him.”
Weeks is competing with Ryan Flaherty and Schoop for the starting second base job.
Urrutia making strides
Even though he made a base-running error in Wednesday’s intrasquad game, outfielder Henry Urrutia has made strides in his baserunning and defense since last season, Showalter said.
Urrutia, a Cuban defector who sped through the minors in his first professional season, came to the Orioles with raw skills that needed to be honed after he didn’t play professionally for two years.
On Wednesday, Urrutia singled, walked and threw out a runner from right field. Thursday, he singled and stole second base in the third inning.
“He’s gotten better,” Showalter said. “You know what he’s gotten better at? His attention to it and the emphasis he’s been putting on it. His outfield work has obviously improved. His work has improved [and so has] his return for it. He looks a lot more comfortable out there. This guy was a center fielder in Cuba. … He’s got a lot of pride.”
Around the horn
Right-hander Chris Tillman is slated to start Friday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte. He is scheduled to throw two innings and will be followed by left-hander Zach Britton, who will also throw two innings…. Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen threw 17 pitches in his scoreless inning of work starting the intrasquad game, 12 of them coming in the opening at-bat against Delmon Young. He struck out Young swinging. … Tommy Hunter pitched a scoreless inning Thursday. … For the second straight day, Showalter pointed out outfielder Francisco Peguero, who singled off Norris. “I like him,” Showalter said. “He’s athletic. He can play all three [outfield positions]. He’s got some energy to his game.”… Left-hander Mike Belfiore sustained a hairline fracture on his left pinky finger during pitchers fielding practice and required X-rays, but he said he’s fine and is scheduled to pitch in Friday. … Right-hander Alfredo Aceves, who left the team to attend to visa issues in Mexico, is expected back Friday. … Cruz joked that he chose No. 23 so he could take it from first-base coach Wayne Kirby, whon Cruz knows well from his days with the Texas Rangers. “I guess I’ll have to buy something for him,” Cruz said. Kirby will wear No. 24, but he wore No. 99 during Thursday’s intrasquad game. … Orioles video coordinator Mike Silverman served as the home-plate umpire for the final half inning of the intrasquad game. The first two hitters put the ball in play, but Silverman got to make a strike-three call on Schoop to end the game, to the enjoyment of players and coaches. Showalter said it was the plan all along for Silverman to call the final half inning, especially with left-hander Troy Patton — who will open the season serving a 25-game suspension — pitching. “I didn’t want him back there with a guy who has a chance to make the club [pitching],” Showalter said. “Now all the pitchers want him.”