Orioles reporter Jon Meoli makes his projections for who will make the Orioles Opening Day roster. (Jon Meoli / Baltimore Sun)
Jonathan Schoop was in the Orioles clubhouse on Friday afternoon for the first time since returning from the World Baseball Classic and the team's starting second baseman said he's "200 percent" ready for the upcoming season.
Schoop's Kingdom of the Netherlands team advanced to the WBC semifinals, winning four of its six games before losing to Puerto Rico in the semifinals. Schoop started all seven games, and given the high intensity of every game, he said he's returning ready for the season.
"I'm ready," Schoop said. "I'm ready already. Those games are so important to me. If you go through the motions, you won't win. You've got to go in there 100 percent and compete. That's all that matters, like compete, just play hard and try to win. It's all about winning. It's like the season, [you're trying to] win."
Schoop didn't know how many spring games he will get into before the season starts – he wasn't on Friday's trip and there are six Grapefruit League games and an exhibition game at Triple-A Norfolk remaining – but said he's ready to go when needed.
"I'm ready whatever Buck wants me to do," Schoop said. "That's why I'm here. I'm ready. It's over, the WBC, and I'm here to focus here. If they need me tomorrow, if they want me to play tomorrow, I'm ready to play."
Schoop was 6-for-27 in the WBC, including a homer in a three-hit game against Japan. He played in just three Grapefruit League games before traveling across the world for first-round games in Seoul, South Korea. The Netherlands then played second-round games in Tokyo, Japan, before their final game in Los Angeles.
Before leaving for the WBC, Schoop talked about how a good showing would hopefully bring more scouts to his native Curacao, a Dutch island territory in the Caribbean, where major league infielders Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons and Jurickson Profar also hail from. Another major part of the Netherlands team, Xander Bogaerts, hails from nearby Aruba.
"We played really good defense," Schoop said. "We win, we went to the semifinal. The world didn't expect us to be there, I think. A lot of scouts like the way we play the game. They say, 'you guys play good.' Maybe that's the way we get more scouts to go down there and watch some more players because we have more good young players down there, too.
"It was different because now we all are in the big leagues for almost three years already," Schoop said. "We're more mature. We know what we have to do to win, and so we did. We went to the semifinal and we had a good run. We enjoyed it, and learned a lot from it, too, and I think I'm better now, too."
Schoop said he's let teammate and good friend Manny Machado know that his team advanced further than Machado's Dominican Republic team.
"I'm playing chess with him right now," Schoop said. "I'm having fun with him. I wanted to play against him but they fell off a little bit, but Puerto Rico has a good team too. They beat them and they beat us too. But it was fun, fun to watch him on TV, watch Adam [Jones play for Team USA], too, make a great catch off Manny. It was fun to watch and fun to play in the WBC. I looked forward to it because that's good, it's competitive, it gets you motivated."
Schoop said it's too early for him to commit for the event again in 2021, but said he learned a lot about the depth of talent across the world.
"Yeah, there is," Schoop said. "Even [first-time qualifier] Israel, they beat us in the first game. They have good guys like Ty Kelly, Ike Davis, good guys on the team, and then we came back and beat them. There's good baseball around the world and it's getting better too, getting better every year."