Twins

Jonathan Schoop is Playing Better Recently, Despite Reduced Playing Time in Second Half

Photo credit: David Banks (USA Today Sports)

If it’s bothering Jonathan Schoop that he’s not receiving as much playing time recently, it hasn’t affected his demeanor. The happy-go-lucky veteran second baseman is always smiling, walks with his typical swagger and remains one of the most engaging personalities in the Minnesota Twins locker room.

An All-Star two years ago with the Baltimore Orioles, Schoop went from hitting .293/.338/.503 with 32 home runs in 2017 to being dealt at the trade deadline to the Milwaukee Brewers and hitting .202/.246/.331 in 46 games for a team with aspirations of a deep playoff run.

He hit .260/.311/.469 in the first half of this season, but scuffled after the All-Star Break and rookie Luis Arraez has started to take his playing time. He’s hitting .294/.333/.941 in the last two weeks, however, and has five home runs in his last five games, including two in Minnesota’s 8-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.

“He’s truly a professional and like we talk about a lot, a wonderful teammate and person in our clubhouse,” says Rocco Baldelli. “He handles everything pretty well. He’s got a great way about him on an everyday basis.”

“He’s a 30-plus home run hitter in the past,” said Jake Odorizzi, who started Wednesday. “With him not getting consistent playing time it’s hard for him to get into a nice groove. Now that he’s starting to play a bunch he’s getting into that groove that I’ve seen him be in multiple times over my career.”

Even when he was struggling, Odorizzi points out that he has one of the best arms in the league at second base and typically plays sound defense.

“He made a really good play in the fourth inning to get the guy out at second base, get the lead runner, and we were able to get out of it after that,” he said. “Little things like that he does all the time kind of go unnoticed but the two home runs are exactly what we need.”

When asked about his recent home run streak, Schoop kind of shrugged it off.

“It’s fun, it’s fun. But it is fun to win too, you know,” he said. “Sometimes you hit a home run and you don’t win.”

Nineteen of his 20 home runs have come in wins. The criticism with him is that sometimes they come in games where the outcome has already been decided. But that comes with the territory of playing on a team where seven players have hit 20-plus home runs this season, tying the major league record.

Maybe he’s trying to acknowledge that he wants his scoring to drive winning, as it did on Wednesday when he hit a second inning homer off Ross Detwiler. But he could also be emphasizing his desire to see the Twins win games down the stretch. Either way, despite his carefree demeanor, Schoop admits that he was pressing at times during his slump.

“Sometimes you try to do too much. Sometimes the anxiety is there, you are trying to punch the ball,” he said. “Sometimes it’s baseball. Sometimes you feel good, sometimes you don’t. I hope I can keep it up.”

If he was feeling anxious about his slump, he never expressed it outwardly, nor did he complain publicly about his lack of playing time. And with the way he’s hitting recently, he won’t have much to worry about going forward.

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