FORT MYERS, FLA. — Former Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is playing for his third major league team in the past seven months, but the Minnesota Twins seem like a perfect fit.
That was not so in Milwaukee, where he joined a playoff-bound Brewers team and never got comfortable. The deal that sent him there last July 31 left him “heartbroken,” and that was evident by his slow start at the plate and inability to make a significant contribution down the stretch.
Now, he’s been reunited with former O’s teammate and mentor Nelson Cruz and says he’s ready to re-establish himself as the emerging star who hit 32 homers and drove in 105 runs for the Orioles in 2017.
Monday, Schoop was also reunited with some of his former teammates and was in an opposing lineup against the Orioles for the first time since the deal that brought back infielder Jonathan Villar, pitcher Luis Ortiz and minor league prospect Jean Carmona.
He said that if felt a little odd to see the Orioles on the other side of the field at Hammond Stadium.
“A little bit,” he said, “but it’s nice to see old teammates, see the coaches and the trainers. I’m happy. I'm happy to see them and I’m excited.”
It certainly isn’t the same team he left behind. Many of his veteran teammates left at the same time he did, but there plenty of young players who crossed his path over the past few years.
“I’m happy for them … the young teammates,” Schoop said. “I’m excited for them. And my old teammates that left, I’m excited for them and wish them the best.”
What he’s most excited about is getting a fresh start after what was a very disappointing and uncomfortable time in Milwaukee. The Twins offered him that, and the one-year contract they offered affords him the opportunity to bounce back from what was a bad 2018 season all around and re-enter the free-agent market.
The Twins weren’t his only suitor, but Schoop said he did not have any contact with the Orioles after he was non-tendered by the Brewers.
“No contact at all, but that’s OK,” he said. “A couple teams asked me, they called and talked with me and offered, but I feel this was the right fit. They’ve got a really good core of guys — the young talent — and I feel like I fit in really good with them.”
The reunion with Cruz — who signed with the Twins four weeks after Schoop — was just a bonus.
“It’s like old times,’’ Schoop said. “It’s like 2014 with the Orioles. Me and him will have a lot of fun, for sure. We’re excited for the season. We’re excited to be back with each other and do a lot of handshakes after the home runs.”
Cruz was a major influence on Schoop’s budding career, so his presence has created a comfort zone in the Twins clubhouse he didn’t have in Milwaukee.
“He helped me a lot, that’s no secret,” Schoop said. “Manny [Machado] helped me, too, but Cruz taught me when I was a rookie. It’s good having him right now with the maturity I have right now and with him to keep helping me, so I now I know what I’m doing but with his experience and his talents he’s going to help me more. I’m going to be more consistent with him here.”
Going to the Brewers felt like “going to a new school,” and there were some tough lessons, but Schoop said that — while he misses the Orioles — he does not have any regrets.
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“Last year taught me a lot,’’ he said. “It made me better. It made me a better person and it will make me a better player, so I’m better now and you’ll see that, too.”