Though Schoop was forced to go on the 10-day disabled list, he suffered a milder strain among the classifications and could return sooner than anticipated.
“There’s grades 1 through 5, with 5 being the most severe, and that was a 1,” manager Buck Showalter explained after a 10-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“I just talked to Jon. He’s really down. But we’re looking at it half full. I’m not going to have everybody start painting a negative picture there. We’ve got some opportunities for other guys. The reason we brought in people like Pedro (Álvarez) and Danny (Valencia) and (Engelb) Vielma, we’ve got some people who are capable of holding the fort down until he gets back.
“We’re thinking a little bit better scenario than what it could have been. We think we caught it kind of early.”
The Red Sox ambushed Alex Cobb early in his Orioles debut, scoring three runs in the first inning and working him for 28 pitches. He allowed seven earned runs (eight total) and 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings, including home runs by Hanley Ramirez and J.D. Martinez.
“Just a little rusty,” said Showalter, whose club has been outscored 22-4 in the first inning. “What did he have, four or five ‘pens, four outings? Physically he’s in good shape. He’s only going to get better. I know he really wanted to ...
“Tough conditions and a really good hitting club swinging the bat well right now. But he’s going to be a real contributor for us. It was exciting to see him out there today.”
Expectations must be lowered because of Cobb’s late signing and adjusted schedule to get ready.
“Oh yeah,” Showalter said. “I think you look at it through realistic eyes. But we felt like and he felt like, we like the program he’s on and he’s only going to get better, especially when conditions get a little better. But a lot of things change when you come from the minor leagues to the big leagues, even the weather that he came from.
“We threw a lot of things at him today and he never gave in. He’s only going to get better and better. We’re excited to have him.”
It’s going to be a process to get Cobb all the way back to his usual form.
“I think that’s true with just about everybody, especially in his case,” Showalter said. “We were slower and more diligent than some other guys in his shoes, but there’s a lot of uncharted territory here. Pitchers and players and athletes are creatures of habit and when you take them out of that habit, sometimes ... But I think this is the start of good things down the road.”
“Cobb was disappointed that he didn’t have more to offer, that couldn’t make a more favorable impression. But mostly, how he put the Orioles in an early hole.
“Whether it’s the impression or not, you just want to go and win a ballgame, give your team a chance,” he said. “You take pride in what you do. That was something that I haven’t felt very often in a long time, just really not having much clue what was going on up there. You can make all the excuses in the world, but at the end of the day you’ve got to figure out a way to get sharp, get sharp quickly and get on a good roll, and I plan to do that this work week.”
Asked whether he felt ready on the mound today, Cobb replied, “No, not today I didn’t.”
“We did all we could do,” he said. “There is no replicating this. This is the best team in the world hitting right now and you’re never going to get ready for that. We did what we could and ... More facing a lineup, it’s a battle with yourself a lot of the times and making sure that you’re sharp and you have things working to your best abilities, and that was the case more than anything today was me faltering rather than really getting beat.
“That lineup is red hot and they were teeing off on some really bad pitches. It was a combination of those two things, but in preparation to get ready for the big league level, you can’t ... until you’re out there, but I’ve been around long enough to know what I was going to expect out there and what I was going to be faced with and I just didn’t come through today on my end.”
Cobb won’t lower his expectations. He sees no benefit in it.
“I think you’re doomed if you do that,” he said. “If you go out there and you expect to put on a performance like that, you’re going to set yourself up for failure. I was expecting to go out there and be sharp from pitch one, from my first batter to last batter, but that wasn’t the case and then you go into battle mode and you try to get outs and you try to do the most you can with what you’ve got. And that failed, also. But thinking along those lines isn’t going to help me, I don’t think, thinking about the disadvantage I was put in, not having a normal spring training.
“I know if I’m on, if I’m sharp, I’ll be fine.”
The splitter was used in some big counts and he’s still trying to refine the pitch.
“It had been so good this spring and working on it and obviously it was extended spring and you can say, well, the hitters are different, but it wasn’t the fact that I was facing those hitters. It was the fact that the pitch was moving and it was doing what it was supposed to do,” Cobb said.
“I really felt a lot of confidence in that this offseason and going through spring training. Each time you’re out there, you think that next pitch, you’re going to fix it and you’re going to do it. You try it and you throw it with all the confidence you have and whatever was off kept leading to some poor changeups over the heart of the plate.”
The Orioles broke through in the fifth on Álvarez’s two-run homer to center field off Hector Velázquez, but they already were down 8-0 before the at-bat.
Álvarez also walked and singled and is a career .423 (11-for-26) hitter in 10 games against the Red Sox. He already has eight walks this season and is one of the few hitters on the team who’s producing.
“It happened last year about maybe two-thirds to halfway through the season down below. He figured some things out,” Showalter said.
“I remember telling you all that. The at-bats he was having last year when the season ended, letting the ball travel and real patient, spitting on a lot of things. This is a guy that led the National League in home runs and came up as a third baseman. I was telling John (Russell) today, I’m really happy for Pete because Pete did it the right way. A lot of guys wouldn’t have humbled themselves and gone through the things he’s gone through to get back here and you love to see things that are happening for him right now. That was a lot of fun telling him that he made the club.”
The Orioles are 5-10 following today’s loss, their worst start after 15 games since going 2-13 in 2010, and they must proceed without Schoop for an indefinite period. It’s not getting any easier.
“It’s tough, man,” said Tim Beckham. “It’s a huge blow for us. But that’s baseball and injuries come with the territory. We’ve just got to act accordingly and pick up the slack. That’s a big blow, a big bat out of the lineup and we’ve got to pick up the slack.”
Beckham replaced Schoop at second base, making his 56th career start. The transition to third base has been put on hold.
“Whatever we need,” he said. “Whatever the team needs, put the lineup out there to win ballgames, I’m down for it. It’s not an unfamiliar position, so let’s do it. If I need to play second, I’ll play second.
“It just felt comfortable. Baseball is hard enough as it is, so I don’t want to keep digging myself into a hole. Just want to go out there and play the game and simplify the game as much as possible and get into a groove at the plate and we’ll have some fun.”
The enjoyment will flow more easily if Cobb shakes off the rust and gives the Orioles what they expected after signing him to a $57 million contract.
“He’ll get comfortable,” said Beckham, a former teammate in Tampa Bay. “Once he gets comfortable and settled in, he’s a good pitcher. He’s been doing it for a while now and he has good numbers in the American League East.
“That’s nothing I’m going to worry about. We’ve got a lot more other worries than Alex Cobb pitching. He’s a good pitcher and I know he’d going to come in here and compete.”