NEW YORK – Orioles third baseman Jonathan Schoop knows he will have his share of growing pains at the major league level, but as he struggled through the first five games of the season, one of his teammates noticed that something was amiss with the 22-year-old.
Schoop, the club's top position player prospect, is an aggressive hitter at the plate. He jumps on mistakes and can send them into the seats. And that’s why he’s here in the majors -- because he showed that in spring training, when he hit .385 to earn one of the Orioles’ final Opening Day roster spots.
But center fielder Adam Jones noticed that Schoop was a little hesitant at the plate in the first few games of the regular season, so he pulled the young player aside and told him to be himself and remain aggressive.
“He helped me a lot,” Schoop said. “He told me to stay aggressive because I’m not a defensive hitter. I’m an aggressive hitter. I’m adjusting, trying to find a way to lay off some sliders, but still make my adjustments and stay aggressive. I was struggling a little bit in the beginning, and he told me, ‘Hey, stay aggressive. You’ll find a way to find your pitch to hit.’ "
Schoop took Jones’ advice to heart in his first at-bat of the Orioles’ 5-4 win Wednesday night against the New York Yankees. He took a 1-0 slider up in the zone from right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and planted it about 10 rows into the second deck in left field.
Tanaka had started Schoop off with a slider out of the zone and then elevated another slider on the next pitch.
“He made a mistake,” Schoop said. “Make him pay.”
** In a little more than 24 hours, left fielder David Lough went from likely heading to the 15-day disabled list to entering Wednesday night's game in the ninth inning.
Lough has been dealing with light-headedness and floaters in his eye, which forced him to miss a week last month in spring training.
The Orioles sent him back to Baltimore to see doctors Wednesday. He passed all the concussion tests there and was immediately back on a train to New York.
“Everything checked out fine, so they sent me back here for the game,” Lough said. “Saw two doctors this morning. Came back and got here just in time for the game.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before the game that Lough is still dealing with the symptoms, and the club is certain they aren’t concussion-related.
Lough said he hopes they clear up on their own.
“Pretty much,” he said. “It’s better now. I think we all got it all taken care of, squared away. Back to normal.”
** Left-handed reliever Brian Matusz might have gotten the two most important outs of Wednesday’s victory. Two of the Yankees’ top offseason acquisitions -- Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann -- had a chance to drive in the go-ahead run, but were retired by Matusz.
Showalter turned to Matusz after Evan Meek gave up a leadoff double to Brett Gardner in the eighth. Matusz entered the game after Derek Jeter bunted Gardner over to third base.
Matusz retired Ellsbury on a popup in foul territory by third base, intentionally walked Carlos Beltran and induced a fly out from McCann.
“Brian’s done that job for us now for about a year-and-a-half at a real good pace,” Showalter said. “We know where his heart lies. I knew he was real frustrated last night. I’d like to get him back out there and get him on the horse. Probably the popup to [Ellsbury] was a big pitch.”
Matusz has stranded 51 of 56 inherited runners since going to the bullpen in 2012.
“That makes for real good friends with your teammates, the other pitchers,” Showalter said. “They really like that. They all notice that. I’ve had a few that, that’s a very telling stat over the course of a career, and it tells you how much Brian takes on the responsibility of that tough job he has.”
** The Orioles announced early Thursday morning that they would make an adjustment in the starting rotation for this weekend's series against the Blue Jays.
Right-hander Chris Tillman will start Friday's game so he can work on regular rest coming off Thursday's off day. Right-hander Bud Norris, who was next in line to start, will be pushed back to Saturday. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez remains in the Sunday slot.
Norris was available in the bullpen on Wednesday night, but didn't see action.
Last season, Tillman was 9-5 with a 3.37 ERA when working on four days rest, compared to a 3.93 ERA with five days rest.