Orioles notebook: Infield defense continues to impress

Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) throws to first to get out Tampa Bay Rays' Tim Beckham during the seventh inning of the first baseball game in a split doubleheader, Saturday, June 25, 2016, in Baltimore. The Orioles won 5-0.
Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) throws to first to get out Tampa Bay Rays' Tim Beckham during the seventh inning of the first baseball game in a split doubleheader, Saturday, June 25, 2016, in Baltimore. The Orioles won 5-0. (Nick Wass / AP)

Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop looks across the diamond at shortstop J.J. Hardy and third baseman Manny Machado, and knows the defensive bar is high.

"They make good plays all the time," Schoop said. "I just want to be a better player and get better."


Each of the three infielders made spectacular defensive plays behind Kevin Gausman in the Orioles' 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, with Schoop's play on a high hop off the pitcher's mound up the middle perhaps the most impressive of them all.

Schoop joked his was better than the play Machado made ranging into foul territory to get Rays third baseman Evan Longoria at first base. The play before that, Hardy fielded a nasty hop off the dry infield for an impressive play of his own.

Gausman said even when it's grown to be so routine, the plays still jolt you when they happen in real time.

"It's a little bit of both," he said. "You kind of expect them to make that play, but then you're surprised when they do. I just got lucky that that ball that [Rays shortstop Tim] Beckham hit hit the mound a little bit and went toward Schoop a little bit more. If that doesn't happen, I think that's a base hit to center field. But there was a lot of great plays. J.J. behind me. That ball was smoked. I don't think you see many shortstops make that play."

The Orioles infield defense has been among the league's best this season, even with Hardy missing nearly two months and Machado deputizing at shortstop. The infield saved 15 runs this season entering Saturday, according to FanGraphs, with highlight plays the norm.

Hardy had particular praise for what Schoop did.

"He's ranging a long way to get to those, and they're definitely not routine," Hardy said. "And then to be able to turn around and throw, get that much velocity on it as he's falling away from first base is impressive."

"Those are the days, where you're watching a guy pitch, doing well at his craft and watching the guys play defense," manager Buck Showalter said. "I can't tell you how many above-average defensive plays there were. Even a routine play in right field fighting that sun, there's no routine play there. That was fun to watch."

Hardy's hearty week: Hardy has made a smooth transition back into the starting lineup after missing seven weeks recovering from a broken bone in his left foot.

He had two hits in the first game of the doubleheader for his third multihit game in his first seven games back.

Heading into the nightcap, he was 8-for-27 (.296) since returning from the disabled list and raised his batting average from .244 to .257, but he downplayed his solid performance at the plate.

"I feel like I've gotten some cheap ones," he said. "I've hit the ball hard and made some outs, but that's the game."

Roster move coming: Showalter said roster management is difficult this weekend with the doubleheader coming a day before the Orioles leave for an 11-day road trip to San Diego, Seattle and Los Angeles.

The pending returns of reliever Vance Worley (groin) and catcher Caleb Joseph (testicular surgery), plus a couple of players whose wives are expecting to give birth soon, complicate matters from a travel standpoint.


"We've got two to three potential moves coming out of [Sunday's] game, and you don't want to take somebody to the West Coast who's not going to be active," Showalter said. "That's just not fair to them. It's not fair quite frankly, financially, flying guys back and forth. We've also got two or three guys who are close to leaving us for impending births.

"I'm trying to keep that in mind when I'm looking up there at the board. From a human being standpoint, I don't want them to be on the West Coast when their wives need them back here. I try to keep an eye on that. There's a lot of things going on. But we try to win each game and see where you are when the smoke clears."

Tillman an All-Star: Saturday night's starter, Chris Tillman, entered the outing in the top 10 in the American League in several statistical categories, making his All-Star candidacy a topic for discussion.

Showalter wouldn't say whether he'd accommodate the Orioles rotation to make it so Tillman can pitch in the July 12 showcase in San Diego.

"I will do what's best for the Baltimore Orioles, and so will Chris," Showalter said. "We'll see what that is. I hope he gets selected — he's deserving — and I hope we get to accomplish both. But I can tell you where the priority is going to be."

Around the horn: In his first appearance in an official game since 2014, Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey struck out five and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings in a rehab appearance with the Gulf Coast League Orioles on Saturday. ... Worley allowed one run on five hits over 1 2/3 innings Saturday making his first minor league rehab appearance at Double-A Bowie. Worley threw 36 pitches, 27 for strikes. … In the doubleheader, Schoop extended his hitting streak to eight games, and center fielder Adam Jones extended his to seven games.


Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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