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With rehab coming to an end, O's Schoop still slugging

FREDERICK — Jonathan Schoop's time spent rehabilitating his injured right knee is nearing its end, and the Orioles have plans for their young second baseman to be back in Baltimore very soon.

The big league club's depth has allowed it to give Schoop plenty of action within the minors, but the 23-year-old seems eager to get this stint over with so he can rejoin the Orioles as soon as possible. He started his final stretch Thursday night by playing with Class-A Frederick at Harry Grove Stadium, where the Keys hosted Potomac.

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Schoop went 2 for 4 and stuck to his slugging ways with a mammoth home run.

It came in the eighth inning, an estimated 414-foot blast over the high fence in left field that tied the game at 3-3. Frederick scored another run in the eighth and held on for a 4-3 victory.

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Schoop didn't make it into the Keys' clubhouse before a horde of fans cornered him for his autograph, and the session lasted a good 10 minutes. Schoop signed everything in his face until the crowd dispersed, ducked into the clubhouse for a quick bite to eat before venturing back outside to talk about his performance.

"I feel better than before," Schoop said. "It's good to be out there and play baseball. I feel stronger than before ... 110 [percent], and better than before like I said."

Schoop's first chance in the field came in the fourth inning. Potomac's Grant DeBruin hit a chopper that Keys pitcher David Hess deflected with his glove, but Schoop ranged to his left to gather it and throw DeBruin out at first.

An inning later, Schoop made a nice backhanded play to throw out Nationals catcher Craig Manuel after Manuel hit a grounder toward second base.

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He fielded a clean grounder for an out in the sixth, then helped turn a nifty 4-6-3 double play in the seventh. Schoop also helped complete a 6-4-3 double play in the eighth.

Schoop's single came in the sixth, a first-pitch grounder into right field.

He hasn't played a major league game in more than two months, but Schoop said knowing his DL tenure is ending has been motivating him lately.

"The first two weeks was really tough," he said. "But after that I had to get after it and work really hard on my rehab, trying to be better for now and strong, and better than before."

Schoop played in extended spring training before joining the Orioles on June 15 in Baltimore. After some infield work at Camden Yards, Schoop was sent to Class-AA Bowie and played in six games with the Baysox. Schoop hit .240 with two doubles, three home runs, and six RBIs. All of his homers came in his final four games in Bowie.

His latest long ball was a timely one for Frederick.

"I'm always going in there and looking for a pitch to drive," Schoop said. "And if I get it, I hope I put a good swing on it and hope it goes out of the ballpark."

Schoop was batting .259 with three homers and seven RBIs for the Orioles before going on the disabled list April 18. Schoop injured his knee the previous day in Boston, when he landed awkwardly running through first base.

The diagnosis was a badly sprained right knee, but the injury didn't require surgery and Schoop knew he'd be back this season without any setbacks.

None so far.

"I'm excited to be back," Schoop said, "and be a part of the team."

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