By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
6:30 PM EST, February 15, 2014
SARASOTA, FLA. – Orioles manager Buck Showalter raved about the power infielder Jonathan Schoop has showed in batting practice the past few days. Yesterday, he hit a home run that hit a car in the parking lot on a field where the wind traditionally blows in.
Schoop said he put on eight to 10 pounds in the offseason working out with Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar in his native Curacao.
“I lifted a lot to get stronger in my legs,” Schoop said. “If you want to play the whole season, you need to be strong and lifting is part of the game. You’ve got to get stronger to do your best.”
After watching him hit the past two days, there’s definitely a loud pop coming off his bat in batting practice.
Schoop has dealt with injuries – including previous knee problems and stress fracture in his back that cost him two months last season – and the club believes those ailments have partially been rooted in the 22-year-old Schoop still growing into his body.
“I feel like I’m done growing, but I can get stronger for myself to get better,” Schoop said. “The stronger you are the better baseball player you are.
Asked if Schoop -- the Orioles’ top position player prospect -- sees himself starting the year in the big leagues this year following a September call up last season, he said he’s just trying to make the majors is his ultimate goal, whether it is in April or later.
“I’m just coming into camp to do me and work hard,” he said. “Whatever happens, I just want to play baseball. If I start at Norfolk, I’ll work hard to get to the big leagues and if I start in the big leagues I’ll do my best to stay there.”
Schoop said that he hasn’t been told whether he will concentrate on playing second or third base this spring, but assumed he’d be told when position players officially begin workouts next week.
The Orioles could make an official announcement on the signing of South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon later today, but a press conference to introduce the right-hander likely wouldn’t come until after the weekend.
That’s a good sign for all those Orioles fans holding their breath for another failed physical. It’s not official that he’s passed the physical yet, but all signs are positive.
Meanwhile, the Orioles will hold their second official pitchers and catchers workout of the spring, again focusing on pitchers fielding practice. Among the scheduled drills today will be covering first on a grounder to the first baseman, fielding bunts between the mound and third base and force plays at second off comebackers to the mound.
The following pitchers are scheduled to throw bullpens today: Tommy Hunter, Bud Norris, Darren O’Day, Evan Meek, Troy Patton, Ryan Webb, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Wei-Yin Chen, Tim Alderson, Brock Huntzinger, T.J. McFarland, Nick Additon, Tim Berry and Kelvin De La Cruz.
Right-hander Tim Alderson, who wasn’t here for yesterday’s first workout, has arrived at camp and will participate in today’s workout.
Alderson, who was flying out of Arizona, had his connection to Sarasota through Charlotte canceled. Instead, he had to fly to Tampa through San Antonio and drive to Sarasota.
During morning clubhouse access, there was still no sign of catcher Johnny Monell and right-hander Alfredo Aceves.
Catcher Michael Ohlman received the “luck of the draw” as he said in receiving the assignment of catching developing knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa during bullpens yesterday.
Ohlman caught Gamboa during last year’s spring training and also caught another developing knuckleballer, Zach Clark, in Class-A Frederick last season, but said it’s still a difficult task.
“That was the first time since I’ve seen him last spring training,” Ohlman said. “But he had a good one, a really good one yesterday. It was moving all over the place and even the ones that had a little spin to them; they were downward so they were down in the zone.”
“The good ones are the ones that move late and it’s hard for you to catch and you almost miss it or you do miss it,” he added. “That’s when you know it’s a good one. That’s how you can tell.”
So how do you approach trying to catch the knuckler?
“You just stay as loose as possible really,” Ohlman said. “There’s certain technique. … It’s something that you’ve got to play with just like anything else, you’ve got to find something that works for you. I just try to stay as loose at possible and try to wait until the last possible second to see where it’s going to end up.”
“I don’t think it ever gets easy,” he said. “You get better at it. That’s how it is.”
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