Schoop's offensive surge could raise profile at MLB trade deadline
It’s hard to be jokey and light during Zoom interviews. No matter how you try to soften things, the player is sitting in front of a screen, staring into a camera with a bunch of reporters asking questions — it always feels like an interrogation.
This time, though, thankfully, the attempt at levity got through.
Jonathan Schoop was asked before the game Thursday if his neck and shoulders were sore?
He looked quizzically back at the camera.
“You know, from carrying the offense for about the last month,” he was told.
“No,” he laughed. “I’m good.”
He’s been better than good. Schoop, batting in the third, second and fourth spots in AJ Hinch’s batting order in Kansas City, ignited the Tigers’ offense in the three-game sweep of the Royals, going 6 for 14, with a home run, two RBIs and four runs scored.
He’s been one of the hottest hitters in baseball since May 22, hitting safely in 19 of 23 games, with 18 multi-hit games and slashing .374/.431/.703 with six doubles, eight home runs and 18 RBIs.
Remember when Schoop was hitting .197 with two homers and eight RBIs on May 14? He’s hitting .272 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs now.
Not unrelated, the Tigers went into Anaheim Thursday 20-15 in their last 35 games.
“I feel good,” Schoop said. “My second year with the Tigers, I feel like we have some really good things going on, a lot of good things happening going forward. The young guys are progressing, they are getting better.
“I feel like we are starting to play some really good baseball.”
Naturally, Schoop’s offensive surge triggers two questions: Will he return to the American League All-Star team for the first time since 2017 and, will he be traded by the end of July? Both are legitimate questions, especially the latter.
There are contending teams right now (Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs, for starters) who could greatly benefit from a veteran hitter and versatile infielder who has playoff experience.
There will likely be more as the July 30 trade deadline nears.
“I’m not thinking about that,” said Schoop, who is on a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Tigers. “I’m just trying to control things I can control. Those are things from the outside and you can’t control them. I’m trying to show up every day and do what I’m supposed to do and help my team win – not thinking about those things.”
Can’t blame him. Thinking about the trade deadline might give him ugly flashbacks. He was ambushed at the deadline in 2018 — traded by Baltimore, the organization he grew up in, to Milwaukee.
“They didn’t make me aware of that,” he said. “It was at the last minute, like four o’clock right at the deadline. I didn’t know what was going on. It was tough. It felt like I was sent to a different school, you know?”
It was a tumultuous time and he struggled in Milwaukee. If the Tigers do move him at the deadline — and with second baseman Willi Castro coming back to life offensively recently and top second base prospect Kody Clemens starting to hit well at Triple-A, it’s a good possibility — he will be better equipped to deal with it.
“You learn from things like that and you get better from it,” he said. “And you move forward. I learned a lot from that.”
As for returning to the All-Star game, Schoop would be honored to represent the Tigers.
“Personal goals, it’s always good to achieve them,” he said. “But the main thing is trying to win with your team and get to the playoffs. Sometimes achieving personal goals, it’s a good thing but we don’t have to worry about that too much.
“If I am helping the team win, things are going to go my way. If it happens, really good. If it doesn’t, you’ve got to keep moving forward.”
Boyd, Turnbull out until mid-July?
It’s possible the Tigers could be without the top two starters in their rotation -- Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull — until after the All-Star break (July 13).
“We don’t know where we’re at compared to the All-Star break,” Hinch said. “That’s the big question. Are we going to push these guys before the All-Star break versus utilizing the time (the four-day break) and targeting them back after the break?
“That’s the assessment that’s going to be done over the next couple of weeks on how we’re going to ramp these guys back up.”
While the Tigers are in Los Angeles, Boyd is going to meet with elbow and shoulder specialist Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache, the head team physician of the Dodgers and Rams. Boyd left his start on Monday in Kansas City in the third inning with soreness in his elbow area.
Turnbull has been out since June 5 with right forearm strain. He is in Lakeland and he’s yet to begin any kind of throwing program.
Complicating the issue further, the Tigers are also discussing when to start restricting the workload on rookie starters Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. Initially, the Tigers discussed shortening their starts beginning sometime in July.
Right-hander Julio Teheran, out since June 7 with right shoulder strain, isn’t expected back before the All-Star break, and possibly not until August.
Around the horn
► Outfielder Victor Reyes (left intercostal strain) is in Lakeland and beginning to increase his baseball activities. He’s been throwing, running and doing defensive drills, and now he’s starting to take swings. “Hitting right-handed is going to come faster than left-handed just based on where the injury is,” Hinch said. The plan is for Reyes to play in some extended spring games in Lakeland before starting his rehab assignment in Toledo.
► Late-inning reliever Jose Cisnero, entering play Thursday, had not allowed an earned run in 15 of his last 16 outings, striking out 15 in 15 innings.