Lawrie eyes a fast track

Blue Jays infielder Brett Lawrie balances a baseball on his fingers at the team's spring training...

Blue Jays infielder Brett Lawrie balances a baseball on his fingers at the team's spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida on February 25, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:24 PM ET

DUNEDIN From the moment he found out hed been traded to the Blue Jays, Brett Lawrie left no doubt where he intends to play this season.

Im ready (for the major leagues), theres no doubt in my mind that Im ready, the Burnaby, B.C., native said last December, a day after hed been dealt to the Jays for pitcher Shaun Marcum.

I have a lot of trust in myself, a lot of trust in my ability. Im going to go into big-league spring training, do my thing. Im as ready as Ive ever been.

Apparently, this was no idle threat. From the day he arrived here, hes been all business, clearly bent on making it tough on the Blue Jays braintrust to send him out.

Hes been doing everything we hoped for and possibly more, said manager John Farrell on Thursday.

Asked if he thought Lawrie could go north with the Jays, Farrell paused.

Ive got my thoughts, he said, a broad smile across his face. If he had been playing poker, Farrell might have been betraying a royal flush.

The manager isnt the only person of power who might be thinking now rather than soon but there are a lot of considerations to be weighed, not the least of which is Lawries age (21) and his inexperience, after just two seasons of professional ball. Hes learning a new position, third base, but has looked comfortable there already, making some tough plays flawlessly.

And there is also the issue of starting his arbitration clock at such an early age.

At the plate, he has only a couple of hits in 11 at-bats, but has impressed with his plate awareness and his short powerful stroke.

Hes an exciting young player, said Farrell. I dont know where things end up at the end of camp. Hes not on the roster, and in this case, thats a good thing because we can see him right to the end, giving him regular at-bats.

We can see him in the last 10 days to two weeks where things really kick in for pitchers and they have their better stuff and better command of their secondary pitches. You get a little more accurate read on a hitter then than right now.

But everything has been very positive. We gave up a very good pitcher to get him, but we got a very good player in return.

Oddly, Lawrie arrived in Toronto with a reputation as an ordinary, perhaps even below-average, defender. Nothing hes done this spring would indicate that to be true. He has good hands and a strong, accurate arm. More than that, his athleticism and quickness should serve him well to make the reactive plays necessary at third.

Jose Bautista has been working right beside Lawrie at third base for the past three weeks and likes what he sees.

Obviously, you cant help but notice his physical ability, said Bautista. Hes an incredible athlete that youd like to have on your team.

Hes got a nice swing, he has great speed, so theres a lot you can do with that type of player. Hes not one-dimensional. He can steal, go first to home on a double. You want those types of players on your team.

Last year, at double-A, Lawrie had 60 extra-base hits, including 16 triples. He runs out every ball as if hes in the Olympic 100 metres. There is little doubt hes going to be in the majors soon. Just how soon is a debate that will be waged in the Jays executive meetings throughout this month.

This isnt a question of how many seasons away he is. Its a question of how many months away he is. There is general agreement within the organization that Bautista might be more valuable in right field and, if Lawrie is deemed ready, Bautista in right would be better than Juan Rivera.

On defence, Brett has pretty good hands and a great arm, said Bautista. He hasnt played much third, so he needs more repetition and more experience. Hes going to be able to handle it and hes going to get where he needs to go quicker than anybody expects him to. Hes just that type of competitor.

Lawrie is a kid who came to camp this year determined to kick down the door to his big-league career. Its early, but hes already rattling the hinges.

ken.fidlin@sunmedia.ca


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