Jonathan Schoop is not a fan of the Twins’ early-season schedule.
“Not good,” the second baseman said, shaking his head before Wednesday’s game against the Mets at New York’s Citi Field. “We don’t need it right now. But it is what it is. It’s part of the schedule, but you have to find a way to get through it.
“Off days are good but there have been too many in April already.”
Schoop looked forward to heading to Target Field on Friday to play the Tigers, the first of 26 games in 27 days, a perfect setup for creatures of habit such as Schoop to lock in at the plate and show the Twins what kind of player he can be for them.
But the Twins, who already have taken five scheduled off days since the season began March 28, will have an unplanned one Friday because this week’s storm caused the series opener to be postponed.
“We haven’t had a chance to play,” Schoop said, “but you have to figure out a way to get yourself in a rhythm.”
Consecutive idle days come just when Schoop was showing signs of getting in that groove he desperately seeks.
And Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, speaking for more than only Schoop, wants to see what his position players can do when not being interrupted.
“I can say that with the weather and with the days off, these are not the easiest days to go out there, prepare to be ready to play and go out there and do your job,” Baldelli said. “And our guys have just continued to not make excuses, take the field and do their thing.”
Tuesday, Schoop hit the first two home runs of his Twins career during a 14-8 pounding of the Mets. They weren’t just any home runs. Of the 10 that were hit by both teams in the game — the most in Citi Field history — Schoop had the two longest at 422 and 418 feet.
On Wednesday, during a 9-6 loss to the Mets, Schoop went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. In two games, he lifted his batting average from .217 to .313.
The Twins signed Schoop to a one-year, $7.5 million contract, believing he played a chunk of the 2018 season — split between Baltimore and Milwaukee — despite an oblique strain that limited him to a .233 average and 21 home runs. That was a drop-off from his All-Star Game season in 2017, when he hit .293 with 32 homers and 105 RBI for Baltimore.
But Schoop, replacing the departed Brian Dozier at second base, went hitless in his first two games as a Twin and has been up and down since. It wasn’t until recently that Schoop felt comfortable at the plate, which hitting coach James Rowson noticed before Tuesday’s game.
“Everyone is affected differently by these off days,” Rowson said. “It’s hard to get a groove going. But [Tuesday], it was funny. He felt really good and he kind of took that into the game and hit two homers. You’re hoping it stays with him.”
Rowson has new hitters to deal with in Schoop, Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez and C.J. Cron, and he’s still trying to get a feel for how they get their work in during the season while looking for triggers that can get them locked in.
“Before the game, [Schoop’s] mind-set was that he was in a good place,” Rowson said. “He was like, ‘Hey man, I’m going to go out here and I’m going to do damage.’ I could tell he was feeling good before the game and he went out there and looked as good as he felt.”
Schoop is third on the team with an average exit velocity of 93 miles per hour on balls coming off his bat, trailing only Cruz and Byron Buxton. That’s an improvement from a career-low 86.1 mph last season. His batting average on balls put in play is .400, and his line-drive percentage is 22.7%, which would be a career high.
He’s squaring up balls, and would benefit from playing in more games as soon as possible. But the league schedulers and Mother Nature are conspiring against him.
“I’ve seen Jon play for a long time,” Baldelli said. “And when he is going right, he can really snap the ball. He has a lot of strength. I think we’re seeing that. This is the kind of stuff he does when he starts getting on a roll. It’s really nice to see.”