Orioles rookie infielder Jonathan Schoop is starting to find his comfort zone at the plate, as was indicated by his four-hit game in the Orioles' 8-4 win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.
Schoop, who began the season with just two hits in his first 18 at-bats, is now riding a seven-game hitting streak and is hitting .429 over that span. His four-hit day bumped his season average to .304.
During Friday night's game, I started getting questions from fans about what the Orioles are going to do with Schoop once third baseman Manny Machado returns from injury.
First, we don't know when Machado's return will be. It appears that he is on his way to a return by early May, but you can never be sure until it happens. He has plenty of hurdles to get over.
When he does return, figuring out what to do with Schoop is a good problem to have.
Don't forget that Schoop was penciled in to start at Triple-A Norfolk, but he made the Opening Day roster following a spectacular spring.
At this point, Schoop has to have a spot on this team. His ability to hit for power from the No. 9 spot -- he leads the Orioles with seven extra-base hits (six doubles and a homer) – is incredibly valuable.
It's interesting to hear how much Schoop has gotten out of being at the major league level. When he struggled, he went to his veteran teammates, as well as hitting coach Jim Presley, to help pick him up.
"I'm feeling more comfortable," Schoop said. "My teammates have helped me a lot, like Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Jim Presley, my hitting coach. They try to talk to me and tell me to be me. Because they throw me a lot of sliders, I have to change my approach … and learn to lay off of it, [but] stay aggressive."
-- Right-hander Chris Tillman said he didn't pay any attention to his pitch count as it went well over the 100-pitch mark in the fifth inning Friday.
It's pretty hard to ignore it at Fenway Park. At some stadiums, you have to look for it, but it's plain as day on the center field scoreboard.
"I don't pay attention to it," Tillman said. "I don't even know how many I finished with. It was probably a lot. These guys did their job. They saw a lot of pitches, and it was tough."
Tillman finished his five innings with 122 pitches, the second-most he's thrown in the big leagues.
I asked Orioles manager Buck Showalter whether an outing like Friday's, when Tillman really had to battle and make adjustments, was a greater sign of growth for the young pitcher than times when he's been dominant on the mound.
"I hope so, but it was a lot more Boston than Chris' lack of effectiveness," Showalter said. "You take a look and go through the sheet, the at-bats and pitches seen, it's going to happen. There aren't going to be a lot of early count outs. There's such a fine line between having not enough rest and having too much rest. I've looked at all the numbers on all our starters with six days and five days and four days, skipping a start. We just didn't like his bullpen last time. He actually, I think, was too strong tonight."
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-- South Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon had his best outing in the United States on Friday night. Pitching for Triple-A Norfolk, he fell one out short of a quality start. Yoon allowed two runs -- one earned -- and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and no walks in a 3-0 loss to Durham.
Yoon essentially made one mistake, allowing a third-inning solo homer to Mike Fontenot. He allowed an unearned run and two hits in the fourth inning.
Friday's outing is a step forward after Yoon allowed 12 runs and 17 hits over 6 2/3 innings in his first two starts. He allowed nine runs in his debut, lasting just 2 1/3 innings, and even though he allowed just three runs over 4 1/3 innings in his next time start, he issued four walks.
-- The Orioles posted a .302 batting average against Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront, Saturday's starter, last season in three games against him. Doubront had a 1-0 record against the Orioles, but has a 7.11 ERA against the club.
Orioles right-hander Bud Norris, who starts against Boston on Saturday, is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three career starts against the Red Sox. He has pitched to a 3.18 ERA in two starts at Fenway Park over 11 1/3 innings.