MINNEAPOLIS — The Orioles have struggled to find stability at the shortstop position since starter J.J. Hardy went down with a wrist injury last month.
And with manager Buck Showalter wanting to get a closer look at second baseman Johnny Giavotella, All-Star Jonathan Schoop made his first big league start at shortstop Saturday against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Schoop made an impact with his bat, hitting his 18th homer of the season in the fourth inning, but was also steady at shortstop.
"They had a lot of fun with it," Showalter said. "Jon took it very serious and did a good job with it. Johnny brought a lot of energy to the game. He's 1-0 as a starter. Jon, sometimes you throw a few things out there like that just to change the giddy-up a little bit. Jon's a good option. So is Manny [Machado]."
Schoop, who entered the Orioles organization as a shortstop, played there in the eighth inning of Thursday's loss to the Twins, but otherwise hadn't played the position since the Arizona Fall League after the 2013 season.
"It felt good," Schoop said. "I was excited a little bit. It's like the shift. Like [infield coach] Bobby [Dickerson] told me before the game, you treat it the same way as if there was a shift over there. I've been there, just calm myself down and make the routine [plays]."
Said Dickerson, who saw Schoop play short in his first days in the Orioles organization in 2009: "Just brought back memories. … As I keep saying about second base, we're going to stay in the middle. It's all about lower-half quickness. We know his hands are good, his arm strength is there, his intelligence level to play the middle infield is there. So, he has everything other than the prototypical run-around sand flea-type lower half. But other than that, I was impressed."
Meanwhile, the Orioles designated 34-year-old utility man Paul Janish for assignment Saturday with the hope that he will remain in the organization. With Hardy out until August with a broken bone in his right wrist, Janish had been sharing shortstop duties with Rubén Tejada. Neither player has minor league options, and can't be sent to the minor leagues without first clearing waivers. The move made 25-man roster space to reinstate right-hander Chris Tillman from the three-day paternity list.
Tejada was acquired June 4 and added to the major league roster before Hardy's injury to be the team's utility infielder with Ryan Flaherty going to the disabled list with a right shoulder strain. But Tejada has struggled defensively in a more regular role.
Janish has been a trusted defensive fill-in for Hardy over the past three seasons, but he was hitting just .077, going 2-for-26 at the plate in 14 big league games this year. He was hitless in 12 at-bats over his past five games.
"Yeah, it's tough," Showalter said. "Somebody's gotta go. We had four or five options and that was the one that was decided on."
Tillman, who was away from the club since Monday for the birth of his first child, returned to the team and was available to pitch out of the bullpen Saturday.
Showalter considered starting Tillman. But the manager instead opted to keep left-hander Wade Miley on turn, in part because Tillman had seven days off since his last start on May 30.
Tillman threw a side session Thursday in Bowie and also played catch twice while he was away from the team.
"That's why I'm here," Tillman said. "I threw my bullpen. That went really well, a lot better than I expected it to go after five days off. I feel like I'm ready. I played catch twice, so it hasn't been too long. … It wasn't too bad. Being right there in Baltimore, it was easy to get to the field when I needed to. I went there twice and went to Bowie once. It hasn't been bad. It's pretty easy to tell you the truth. A 20-minute drive and I'm at the park and an hour later I'm back home, so it wasn't hard."
Showalter said he hoped to give Tillman some work in one of the Orioles' last two games before the All-Star break.
"Hopefully, we don't have to use him today, but I would like to get him on the mound before [the break]," Showalter said. "It's been a long week-plus for him. We'll see. Kind of like [closer] Zach [Britton]. We've got to keep Zach pitching. We can't have him sitting around for a while. It's the same way with Chris, because we're going to need him."
Harvey continues to progress
Showalter said he's pleased with pitching prospect Hunter Harvey's continued progress from Tommy John elbow reconstruction, saying that the former first-round draft pick isn't far away from joining an affiliate.
"If he stays [on track], he's going to be a guy that's going to pitch through the end of the season, which will be encouraging," Showalter said. "I don't want to get ahead of myself and think about the fall league and stuff like that, but if he's healthy, he might be a candidate."
Around the horn
Designated hitter Mark Trumbo extended his hitting streak to seven games with his solo home run in the eighth. … Machado is hitting .360 (9-for-25) with six RBIs in six games against the Twins this season. … First baseman Trey Mancini has hit safely in six straight games and has multiple hits in four of the six.