After 2012 season with Bowie, Schoop is getting closer to his big league dream

Nice return to the Orioles.

Rejoining the Orioles Wednesday after playing in the World Baseball Classic, the club's No. 3 prospect according to Baseball America had a big game Friday. Jonathan Schoop got the start at shortstop against Tampa Bay and went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer off Jeff Niemann.

Schoop has some power potential and delivered a huge three-run homer against Cuba in the WBC.

But fans wonder and ask often about his defense. He can play at second, short and third and was signed out of Curacao as a shortstop. What does Schoop feel is his best position?

"Seriously, I just want to be in the lineup," he said Friday in the O's clubhouse. "I can defend all three positions - third, short, second - the same, you know. I have the ability to do that, but just want to be in the lineup to help the team win a game."

At just 20 (he turned 21 Oct. 16), Schoop played for Double-A Bowie last year in the Eastern League, batting .245 with 24 doubles, 14 homers, 56 RBIs and a .710 OPS. No, he didn't tear it up, but no one with the club seemed to bat an eye over that. They felt he made progress and gained valuable experience against some very good pitchers.

"I struggled a bit and learned a lot," Schoop said. "I learned what I can do and what I cannot do. It was tough, but you have to learn to make adjustments. The WBC gave me confidence. You play at such a high level and have to be at your best every game."

Schoop said it was encouraging to see his good friend, Manny Machado, get to the majors last August. One year earlier, the duo was the double-play combination at Single-A Frederick turning several highlight-reel double plays as the Keys won the Carolina League championship.

Schoop spent this past winter working on all aspects of his game.

"I worked on everything because a player needs to improve everything," he said. "I worked on my speed. I worked on my hitting, my patience at the plate, fielding. I tried to improve everything, a player needs to adjust to everything."

Manager Buck Showalter said Schoop could begin this season playing shortstop for Triple-A Norfolk. It's also possible they will move him around the diamond some on defense. But nothing is set yet, and he could also wind up starting the season back at Double-A. Schoop said it's all good with him.

"Yeah, of course, I just want to play," he said before his big game Friday. "I don't care where I am. I love baseball. Double-A or Triple-A, it's fine. I have one goal this season. To make the big leagues and stay there a long time."

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