LAKELAND, Fla — Jonathan Schoop is still shaking off the jet lag following his quick trip to the other side of the world, but that didn’t make him exempt from being the center of attention once he returned to the Tigers this week.
Knowing how A.J. Hinch operates — he likes to infuse a little fun into his daily meetings with the team ahead of workouts — Schoop wasn’t all that surprised to be singled out by his manager Thursday afternoon.
“I’m easy,” the good-natured Schoop said with a grin. “Anybody can pick on me.”
“Well, we went at-bat by at-bat, what he did,” Hinch said.
Hinch was referring to Schoop’s short stint as a member of Team Netherlands, which recently bowed out of the World Baseball Classic in Taichung, Taiwan, after a run in a Pool A grouping that included Cuba, Italy, Panama and Chinese Taipei.
Schoop logged one hit over the four-game stretch, striking out six times.
“He said he was cheated out of one walk,” Hinch said. “So I asked him what the other issues were.”
This was all in good fun — a common theme for anyone who spends meaningful time around the affable, well-liked Schoop. Now entering his 11th season in the big leagues, the Willemstad, Curaçao, native took the light ribbing as nothing but a sign that he was missed. He’s happy to be back in a familiar setting, even if he’s still a little bleary-eyed from the travel.
“What time is it now?” Schoop said prior to the Tigers’ 10-1 loss to the Phillies on Thursday night at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. “You go there, you lose time, you come back. But you’ve got to make the adjustment. I’m here. I have to sleep, wake up, sleep. I’m here.”
Schoop returned to Florida on Tuesday and he is easing back into the daily Spring Training routine. He worked out with the team Thursday and will serve as the designated hitter on Friday, when the Tigers host the Yankees. His full-scale routine will pick up on Monday, according to Hinch.
It’s a reasonable timetable, given Schoop’s whirlwind trip.
His across-the-globe journey began with a six-hour flight from Tampa, Fla., to Los Angeles, followed by a 14 1/2-hour flight from L.A. to Taiwan. Coming back, he went from Taiwan to Korea to Atlanta, and after a four-hour delay before the final leg, he finally made it back to Tampa — just in time to wonder, given the 12-hour time difference between Taiwan and Florida, what day it was.
The Tigers’ only off-day during the Florida portion of their spring schedule landed on Wednesday — perfect timing for Schoop, who spent his first real day back playing a game of catch-up.
“It’s fun when you come back and everybody welcomes you,” he said. “You’re part of the team and they miss you. Then you see that you’re really part of the team. You’re a piece of it. Everybody misses you and everybody’s glad you’re back. I’m very happy to be back.”
And soon, he’ll be back to business. Schoop has some work to do, given his Grapefruit League season has been pretty much in line with his run with Team Netherlands. He has one hit in eight at-bats in Florida, spanning just three games.
He’s also coming off a down year in 2022, when he slashed .202/.322/.561 and struck out 107 times over 131 games.
But there are positives to draw from, too. Scoop’s defense at second base last season was more in line with his career output — he was an American League Gold Glove finalist — and, in anticipation of his range being tested with infield shifts largely going away, Schoop dropped some weight, which presumably should help with agility.
Now he just needs to get back in the swing of things, in a literal sense.
“I know I can hit,” Schoop said. “It’s going to come. I don’t think I can do worse than I did last year. I’ve been in the [Majors] 10 years. I’ve been good, I’ve been OK, I’ve been bad. Last year was bad, but it’s over.
“Spring Training, you’re getting ready for the season. You get ready, you get to see pitches. You don’t look at the numbers. Some players are going to look at the numbers, but the veterans, they know how to get ready for the season.”