Schoop using spring to get back on track

February 21st, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- 's swing mechanics changed upon his return from injury last season, and everyone noticed -- except Schoop.

"Everybody told me my swing was changed," Schoop said. "But I didn't feel it. To be honest with you, I didn't feel nothing. I felt strongly about it."

There was a mental component to Schoop's 2018 struggles as well, as he previously admitted that he was trying too hard to be the hero for the underperforming Orioles upon his return from the injury last season, when Baltimore was 8-26 and en route to the worst record in baseball. He also found himself overthinking as his struggles at the plate continued.

"Sometimes, you've got to think to do something, but when you're good, you don't think," Schoop said. "I was thinking to do it. I hope that's stuck in the past."

All of those challenges -- both physical and mental -- can seemingly be tracked back to the right oblique injury strain last April that kept Schoop out of Major League action for nearly a month in his first stint in the injured list since 2015. The Twins feel that the injury was responsible for the lion's share of the big second baseman's difficulties last season, and the team enters the spring optimistic that Schoop can recover some of his 2017 All-Star form.

"I think we saw that he took on, potentially, some habits to protect himself from the injury, and we did talk to him about re-establishing some of his mechanical techniques and his offensive approach," general manager Thad Levine said.

The underlying Statcast metrics support the idea that the Schoop of 2018 wasn't the same hitter as he had been before. His average exit velocity dipped to 86.2 miles per hour after exceeding 87.4 mph in each of the three previous seasons. Similarly, his hard-hit rate plummeted to 30.6 percent, down nearly seven percent from the previous season and well below his previous low-water mark of 35.3 percent.

Schoop took some time off on a vacation to the Bahamas to clear his head this offseason after he fell a game short of the World Series with Milwaukee, where he hit .202/.246/.331 with four homers in 46 games following his midseason trade from Baltimore.

During his All-Star season in 2017, Schoop hit .293/.338/.503 with 32 homers, 105 RBIs and 35 doubles while playing 160 games.

Though he declined to go into specifics, Schoop said that he made some tweaks to his normal offseason routine in light of his difficult 2018, and he said his swing was in much better shape as he broke camp with the Twins this spring.

"I watched some film and saw what I've got to do to get better, and saw it and kept working on it," Schoop said. "I've come to Spring Training now to finish it off."

New manager Rocco Baldelli was -- like many -- taken aback at first by Schoop's size and strength, and has been impressed early in camp not only by Schoop's power, but also his arm strength at second base.

"He's a really fun guy to watch play, and I'm looking forward to a healthy season," Baldelli said. "I know that's what he's looking forward to, too. Because that's the part of last year that you just can't get around. When you're not healthy and you don't feel good, it's hard to perform."