Pregame notes on Jonathan Schoop's recovery, rehab for J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado leading off

The Orioles are back at “home” tonight at Tropicana Field for the second game of their three-game series against the Rays.

Injured second baseman Jonathan Schoop stopped by the Orioles clubhouse on Saturday. He’s at extended spring training in Sarasota beginning rehab for a Grade 1 partial PCL tear and MCL sprain in his right knee.

Earlier this week, Schoop had fluid drained from the knee. He is still wearing a bulky knee brace on the knee and is receiving STEM treatments on his calf and quad to keep the leg strong.

“I have to wear [the brace] because it helps keep my patella straight to heal the right way,” Schoop said. “I pretty much have to wear it 24-7. When I go to sleep I take it off.”

Schoop said he could begin doing rehab work in the pool on Monday, but it appears Schoop is still several weeks away from getting back into game activity. When Schoop went on the disabled list on April 18, he was told his recovery would likely take six to eight weeks. But it took longer than expected for swelling in the knee to go down. Saturday marked the two-week mark since going on the disabled list

“I want to be back right now,” Schoop said. “I think I’m ahead of schedule, but I don’t want to put a time[table] on myself because if I’m not there by that time, I might be down, you know? Hopefully I will be back before the all-star break, hopefully before that. We’ll see.”

Meanwhile, Schoop has been watching his teammates play every day.

“It’s tough to watch a baseball game because that’s all I know how to do is play baseball,” Schoop said. “They are my teammates, so I watch them and root for them and be there, talk with them, tell them I miss them. That’s the kind of things I think I can do to help them. … They are my friends. They are my teammates but they are my friends so I have to watch them. I have nothing else to do.”

-- Shortstop J.J. Hardy continued to test his left shoulder before Saturday’s game, hitting soft toss throws from hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh during early work and taking live batting practice before the game.

With the quick turnaround Sunday, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Hardy could do more hitting drills in the indoor batting cages before the game. After that, the team will likely decide whether Hardy can report to Double-A Bowie to begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Monday or needs more time. If he does, he could work out at Camden Yards on Monday.

Infielder Ryan Flaherty (right groin strain) will likely start a rehab assignment with Bowie on Monday. He tested the injury with some base-running drills before Saturday’s game and said he’s ready for Monday.

If everything continues to proceed well, Flaherty can get four games in at Bowie before he’s eligible to be activated off the disabled list on Friday.

-- Third baseman Manny Machado will bat leadoff for the first time this season. Machado batted leadoff multiple times in spring training, but had previously batted leadoff two times in the regular season in his major league career, most recently Sept. 22, 2013.

Showalter said he considered batting left fielder David Lough –- who will hit eighth -– in the leadoff spot, but liked keeping his speed in the bottom third of the order.

“There used to be some kind of preconceived notion of what a leadoff hitter is supposed to be, but the only thing you’re gaining is that he has the chance to hit more. He’s swinging the bat well."

Machado is hitting .414 (12-for-29) with three homers and seven RBIs over his last eight games dating back to April 21.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups for both teams:

Orioles
Manny Machado 3B
Jimmy Paredes DH
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis 1B
Steve Pearce 2B
Travis Snider RF
Caleb Joseph C
David Lough LF
Everth Cabrera SS
Miguel Gonzalez RHP

Rays
David DeJesus LF
Steven Souza, Jr., RF
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
Evan Longoria 3B
James Loney 1B
Desmond Jennings DH
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Bobby Wilson C
Chris Archer RHP

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