Over the years, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has made a point of reminding everyone how young a certain player is. The media heard that Delmon Young was "just 28" so many times last year that we were secretly thrilled when he finally turned 29 last September. Same with Mark Reynolds in 2012.
Showalter's new thing over the past couple of weeks is to remind us just how few at-bats second baseman Jonathan Schoop has this year. Schoop was out of action from April 18 to July 4 with a sprained right knee.
With roughly six weeks left in the season, Schoop has just 164 plate appearances. And, as Showalter likes to say, that's the infancy of a baseball year.
I think what is more important to point out about Schoop is just how young and inexperienced he is – using the old Showalter line. Schoop doesn't turn 24 until October. He has 660 plate appearances in 188 games in parts of three seasons. But, basically, he's played little more than one full season.
Heck, he played just 70 games at Triple-A before becoming a big leaguer.
On Tuesday, Schoop had probably his worst game as a big leaguer. He made two errors, and should have been charged with a third when he dropped a relay throw. He also was hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts.
Showalter gave some reasons why Schoop, who had had one error all season before Tuesday, made the miscues – not a great throw by Manny Machado on one drop and the ball was filled with pine tar on his bad throw. But Schoop took full responsibility. He said over and over he had to play better.
On Wednesday, Schoop grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the first and struck out in the fourth on a curveball from Noah Syndergaard. Then, in the sixth, Syndergaard threw four straight curveballs to Schoop in the at-bat, and six consecutive dating to Schoop's previous plate appearance. The young hitter adjusted, smacking the last one just inside the left-field foul pole for a huge two-run homer.
And Showalter made a note of how well Schoop bounced back Wednesday.
"I thought Jonathan had a big night in a lot of ways," Showalter said. "You see some toughness that you like about him because he had some tough at-bats early on and came back and turned a couple big double plays and kept a ball fair [for a homer] that seemed like the 100th breaking ball that he had seen. They got that one in a spot where he could do something with it."
And, remember, he's just 23.
** One of the things that makes sidearmer Darren O'Day so effective, Showalter says, is his ability to read hitters and their bats. He knows when to use his off-speed stuff to set up the hitter. And he's great at picking the spots to elevate his high-80s fastball, which seems a lot faster when you aren't expecting it and don't know exactly where it is coming from.
O'Day demonstrated that expertly Wednesday night against young Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud. With a runner on third and two outs in the eighth, O'Day started d'Arnaud out with two consecutive sliders, one for a ball and one for a strike.
Then O'Day came back with consecutive high fastballs to d'Arnaud, one at 87 mph and one at 88. The kid swung through both as if they were 100 mph. And the All-Star reliever walked off the mound to chants of "O'Dayyyyy, O'Day, O'Day, O'Dayyyyy."