Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop and left fielder Trey Mancini, out with an oblique injury and a knee injury, respectively, did baseball activities pregame Monday at Camden Yards as manager Buck Showalter acknowledged how badly the team needs them back.
Schoop, who has been out since April 14 with an oblique strain, threw and took ground balls on the infield for the first time since he landed on the 10-day disabled list in Boston.
"That's a first big step for him," Showalter said. "I'm hoping that I get good news back on that today. He and Trey, that would be nice. We need them. We need them."
Mancini, meanwhile, took batting practice with the team as he was left out of the starting lineup for a third straight game after he banged his right knee on an unpadded portion of the wall while chasing a ball into foul territory in left field Friday night.
"We'll have a good feel after BP of how close he is, and even his availability tonight," Showalter said. Mancini's absence has left the Orioles short-handed on their bench as they waited for his knee to loosen up. He also got stiches for a cut suffered there, but Showalter has said he could likely play with them still in.
While the Orioles have been struggling offensively both with and without them, Schoop and Mancini represent two of their best bats. Mancini had taken well to batting leadoff and was hitting .284 with a .771 OPS. Schoop started slowly, but was rounding into form at the time of his injury.
Showalter said that using injuries, a list that also includes closer Zach Britton (Achilles), slugger Mark Trumbo (quadriceps) and outfielder Colby Rasmus (hip), as an excuse would be a disservice to the players playing now.
Beckham to leadoff again
With Mancini still out, Tim Beckham was moved to the leadoff spot after Craig Gentry went hitless there in the previous two games.
Beckham hit well as the leadoff hitter after being acquired in a trade in late July before tailing off in September, and was showing signs of improvement last week amid a poor April before a hitless weekend of his own.
Showalter said part of the thinking in the move is to try to spark him there.
"It's a feel," Showalter said. "There's not a whole lot to go on statistically right now. I think it's also what you feel in the clubhouse, talking to these guys every day and what's going on through their minds, and their track record. How do you get them going? There's a lot of different [ways]."
The hope is that Mancini will return soon and be back in that spot, though Beckham turning it around as the team's No. 1 hitter could make for some better possibilities elsewhere.
"I'm hoping Beckham gets hot at leadoff," Showalter said. "That'll create some interesting possibilities. That would be my plans coming back. There's nothing on paper right now that seem to be a better option than [Trey]. Trey is the kind of guy who can hit in a lot of places in the order. ... I was hoping to be able to hit him somewhere else this year if I could. I think he has a chance to be a little more RBI-productive, too, but we'll see by the end of it. We'll start getting some of these guys back."
Beckham was also moved to second base, with Danny Valencia taking over at third.
Around the horn
Left-hander Chris Lee (oblique) threw 59 pitches in 3 2/3 innings in an extended spring training game and has one more outing scheduled before he goes to an affiliate, likely Triple-A Norfolk. Showalter said Lee's role there was still being discussed, but that even if he's a reliever long-term, starting and building up his innings is worth it as a starter. ... Trumbo started at first base for Double-A Bowie on Monday and will play three games there before joining Norfolk in Charlotte on Friday. ... Rasmus is in Sarasota, Fla., and "making progress," Showalter said, as he threw and did trunk exercises Monday. He could start swinging again at the end of this week.