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Schoop confident in return to form with Twins

Second baseman hampered by oblique strain during 2018
MLB.com @dohyoungpark

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jonathan Schoop knows all about that "first day of school" feeling with a new team after he was traded to the Brewers at last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline. So he knows what to expect this time around, and there will be a beloved mentor in the clubhouse to guide him through what he's confident will be a bounceback campaign.

"[Nelson Cruz] became my big brother, my dad [in Baltimore]," Schoop said. "We became really close friends and I call him 'Papa.'"

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jonathan Schoop knows all about that "first day of school" feeling with a new team after he was traded to the Brewers at last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline. So he knows what to expect this time around, and there will be a beloved mentor in the clubhouse to guide him through what he's confident will be a bounceback campaign.

"[Nelson Cruz] became my big brother, my dad [in Baltimore]," Schoop said. "We became really close friends and I call him 'Papa.'"

Even though Cruz and Schoop were only teammates for the 2014 season, the 27-year-old second baseman called Cruz the "best teammate ever" and told the Twins' front office about the impact that Cruz had on both him and Manny Machado when they were rising young stars with the Orioles.

"I love the guy so much," Schoop said. "I love to play with him. I know he will get everybody better. He got me better. Since I played with him [in] 2014, if I can talk good about him five years later, this guy's really good."

Following Cruz's departure to Seattle, Schoop showed glimpses of a breakout in 2015 and '16 before an All-Star campaign in '17 in which he finished second among all second basemen with 32 homers and posted career-bests in nearly every offensive category. But last season, Schoop struggled to a .233/.266/.416 line with the Orioles and Brewers.

Though Schoop said he was bothered by an oblique strain for around five weeks in early 2018, he's not using it as an excuse for his subpar performance. Playing for the MLB-worst Orioles, he felt that he was pressing to do too much upon his return from the injury, and he has learned from the experience and vows to be a better player because of it in 2019.

"Coming back from the injury, I wanted to be the hero," Schoop said. "I wanted to help my teammates. My team was losing. I was trying to be back and trying to be the guy. ... With one swing, trying to score eight runs."

Schoop said it was an easy decision for him to pick the Twins when he was non-tendered by the Brewers and he signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal with Minnesota for 2019. He likes the stadium and the fans, he's excited by the young talent on the team, and he has good memories of playing against Rocco Baldelli when the Twins manager was a coach with the Rays.

"I'm really motivated," Schoop said. "Last year is last year. I'm not trying to think about it. I'm trying to think some good things about last year and trying to keep me better. Last year passed already, so I'm thinking good things for 2019, to throw everything bad [in] 2018 and leave them over there, and come to 2019 better than I was.

"I'm a confident guy. I know what I can do. I know what I've done. I know what I can do. I think I still didn't hit my prime yet, so I think I still have a lot more in my tank to prove."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.

Minnesota Twins, Jonathan Schoop