DUNEDIN, Fla. — Detroit Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop, following a lengthy delay, has been fully cleared to join spring training camp.
The organization re-signed the 29-year-old to a one-year, $4.5 million contract this offseason. He faced trouble getting his work visa to enter the U.S. from Curacao, his home country. Upon his arrival, he needed to go through the COVID-19 intake screening process.
“He’s most likely to debut this weekend, get a few at-bats, maybe in the DH slot,” manager AJ Hinch said Thursday. “I haven’t talked to him, so I got to wait until tomorrow to see him. But yes, he’s here and available.”
JEFF SEIDEL: Come on, Gov. Whitmer: Let more Tigers fans into Comerica Park
Schoop is going to take live batting practice in the next few days and could serve as the designated hitter this weekend. The Tigers play the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater on Saturday and the Baltimore Orioles in Lakeland on Saturday.
[ Jonathan Schoop will do anything to ‘prove myself’ in 2021 ]
For the most part, the Tigers have their full spring training participants active, besides “some COVID protocol stuff,” Hinch said, which includes infielder Zack Short. Right-hander Wily Peralta signed a minor-league contract Feb. 18, but he has yet to arrive in Lakeland.
“Kock on wood it’s going to stay that way,” Hinch said about his roster. “We’re starting to look like a full team.”
Last season, Schoop batted .278 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs for the Tigers in 44 games.
PROSPECTS: What we learned from Tigers’ Franklin Perez, Matt Manning in outings against Phillies
REVENGE TOUR: Lefty Ian Krol craves Tigers’ bullpen role: ‘I’m coming for everything’
Because Thursday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays is only seven innings, the Tigers are making just three pitchers a priority: right-hander Michael Fulmer, left-hander Tarik Skubal and righty Zack Hess.
The hope is Fulmer and Skubal will each pitch three innings, before turning the game over to Hess for the seventh. Because the game is on the road, using Hess will be determined by if the Tigers have the lead.
“Hess will be rooting his tail off for a win today,” Hinch said, “so he can get that seventh inning.”
OWNER SPEAKS: Why Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch says team has ‘win-now mentality’
Three pitchers from mini camp — Drew Carlton, Wladimir Pinto and Ben Taylor — are also available.
“We got Carlton here, so he’s my rescue club if I was playing golf,” Hinch said. “Pinto and Taylor are here as backups, as well, so we’ve got plenty of pitching. But Skubal and Fulmer are the priorities to get them stretched out to 40-50 pitches.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.