BOSTON — The Orioles placed second baseman Jonathan Schoop — one of the team's most durable players and top offensive contributors — on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique strain before Saturday's game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Before the game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that he believed Schoop might miss just two weeks. An MRI performed Saturday morning revealed a Grade 1 strain, which is the mildest grade. Last season, first baseman Chris Davis missed a month just before the All-Star break with a Grade 1 strain.
"We're thinking a little bit better scenario than what it could have been," Showalter said. "We think we caught it kind of early."
Schoop, who was replaced on defense in the eighth inning of the Orioles' 7-3 loss Friday, suffered the injury while swinging during his final at-bat of the night.
"The last swing, if you go back and look at it, was a little awkward. I thought something might be going on there," Showalter said. "Jon usually doesn't take swings at fastballs like that, so [head athletic trainer] Brian [Ebel] caught it, too. … He went out in the field and the ground ball that he bent over for, he felt it again there, so that's when we got him out of there."
Still, recovery from oblique strains — a common injury in today's game as hitters are constantly swinging — have unclear timetables.
"[It's] not too much [swinging]. It's they just swing more," Showalter said. "It's something you can practice every day. That's why pitchers, you couldn't practice pitching like that, but swinging, there's so many more [opportunities]. Everybody's got their own batting practice pitcher, hitting machines. Everybody's got tees and the guys are trying to fine-tune their craft every day."
The Orioles' move to place Schoop on the disabled list coincided with the team calling up right-hander Alex Cobb to start Saturday's game.
Schoop, who set career highs in practically every offensive category in his first All-Star season last year, had a slow start to this season. He entered Saturday hitting .230/.266/.344 with one homer and three RBIs in 14 games, though he was coming off back-to-back multihit games after going 2-for-4 on Friday night at Fenway Park.
Tim Beckham shifted from third base to fill in at second in Saturday's 10-3 loss to Boston and figures to be the team's primary second baseman in Schoop's absence. Beckham — primarily a shortstop before this year's move to third base — made his 56th career start at second base Saturday.
"Whatever we need, man," Beckham said. "Whatever the team needs, put the lineup out there to win ballgames. I'm down for it. It's not an unfamiliar position, so let's do it. If I need to play second, I'll play second."
The injury would likely open up more playing time at third base for Danny Valencia, who started at third Saturday and committed a fielding error. Shortstop Manny Machado made two throwing errors in the loss.
Schoop has been one of the Orioles' most durable players. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, he missed just two regular-season games. This is just the second time Schoop has gone on the disabled list in his major league career. He suffered a partial PCL tear and an MCL sprain in his right knee in April 2015 — an injury that also took place in Boston — and missed nearly three months.
"It's tough, man," Beckham said. "It's a huge blow for us. But that's baseball and injuries come with the territory. We've just got to act accordingly and pick up the slack. That's a big blow, a big bat out of the lineup and we've got to pick up the slack. … It just felt comfortable [at second], man. Baseball is hard enough as it is, so I don't want to keep digging myself into a hole. Just want to go out there and play the game and simplify the game as much as possible and get into a groove at the plate and we'll have some fun."
The Orioles return to a short bench with the move, with utility man Engelb Vielma the only player other than Beckham to have significant experience at second base.
"Nobody cares about other teams' [problems]," Showalter said. "That's just part of the challenge you go through. That's why you're so adamant about attacking your 'what ifs' in the offseason. Everybody has them. Everybody's going to have them."
The Orioles' infield depth will be tested after the team's utility man competition this spring was underwhelming, and will likely force the club to be creative with its infield while Schoop is out. The team carried Valencia as the Opening Day utility man. Vielma has roster flexibility because he can be optioned between the majors and minors and infielder Steve Wilkerson, who could have competed for a utility spot this spring, is in the middle of serving a 50-game drug suspension.
"Obviously we don't expect anybody to come in and be necessarily what Jonathan does for our club but that's just the nature of the game and what you have to do in all sports. … What do you do?" Showalter said. "The game goes on and it creates an opportunity. I look at it that it creates an opportunity for Danny Valencia. It could create an opportunity for Vielma or someone else. We spent not just last night, but the offseason looking at those things. Even a guy like Wilkerson, when he comes off the suspension list, you look at all those things and where that depth going to be. I hope the players look at it as an opportunity for someone else to step up."
A day after a review challenge went against the Orioles, Showalter was still wondering about a controversial play in Friday's game.
In the fourth inning of the 7-3 loss, Adam Jones looped a ball in shallow right field down the line that dropped in fair territory, bounced foul and landed on the tarp roll positioned by the railing.
Right fielder Mookie Betts gave chase, retrieved the ball and threw out Jones attempting to reach second base.
According to Major League Baseball's universal ground rules, any ball that becomes lodged between the tarp and the railing is ruled a dead ball. But the ball was never ruled dead.
Showalter challenged the boundary call, but after a lengthy review, the call stood because there was not clear evidence that the ball was "lodged."
Had Betts raised his hands, the ball would have been ruled a dead ball and Jones would have been awarded second base, so once Jones turned for second, Betts had nothing to lose by attempting to retrieve the ball and throw Jones out.
Mancini the man at Fenway
After a 2-for-4 performance Saturday, leadoff hitter Trey Mancini had multihit games in each of the first two games of the series in Boston, continuing a strong showing at Fenway Park to open his career.
Mancini has hit safely in all nine games he's played at Fenway Park — hitting .500 (17-for-34) in Boston — which is the the longest hit streak in Boston to open a career by an Oriole since Don Baylor had hits in his first 10 games at Fenway Park.
Mancini is also now hitting .365 (19-for-52) with six walks batting from the leadoff spot over the course of his career. He's opened the first two games in Boston with hits and is now 5-for-11 in the first at-bat of the game.
Around the horn
An MRI performed on Gabriel Ynoa on Friday revealed only rotator cuff inflammation, but the right-hander could receive a cortisone injection to relieve the inflammation possibly on Monday. Ynoa opened the season on the DL with a shin injury. … Showalter said there hasn't been any significant progress with outfielder Colby Rasmus' surgically repaired hip. He's eligible to return from the DL on Tuesday, but won't likely be ready by then. … The club is separating Double-A right-hander Hunter Harvey and Triple-A right-hander David Hess, who were starting on the same day, to give the club 40-man roster reinforcement options on different days.