DUNEDIN, Fla. — The old bromide of not if but when describes Brett Lawrie to the tee.
The Blue Jays’ top off-season acquisition — the former Brewers first-round pick of 2008 who cost them right-hander Shaun Marcum — was clearly the story of this year’s spring training.
He arrived as a prized commodity but nobody in the Jays organization knew just what kind of a meteor they had latched on to.
For the past two seasons Lawrie, the pride and joy of Langley, B.C., had toiled with Huntsville, the Brewers double-A post in the Southern League.
The pre-spring plan was to move Lawrie, a catcher turned second baseman, into a third baseman with the hope that he’d adapt to the position while playing the year with Las Vegas at the triple-A level.
Then Lawrie arrived and the WOW factor started.
John Farrell, the Jays new manager, was somewhat star-struck with what he witnessed and there was a run of two weeks where it seemed that after every game, the Jays new skipper would be gushing with praise. A raincoat and umbrella were necessities when Farrell got started.
That Lawrie was sent back to minor-league camp on Wednesday and will open the season at Vegas should in no way be interpreted as any kind of failure.
He was never going to open the season with the Jays but from what he showed, the time clock surrounding him has been has been severely adjusted.
When Lawrie was called into Farrell’s office on Wednesday it was the impression of both player and manager that he would not be in the minors for long, that a first-class ticket to the majors was awaiting him in the not-so-distant future.
“Yeah, I think that’s the impression that I got,” Lawrie said Thursday morning at the Jays minor-league complex. “But I’m not going to worry about that. I think things tend to go wrong when you’re worried about the next level, you’re not worried about where you are.
“I don’t think that I need to worry about getting to the big leagues. I know I’m going to get there at some point, I just don’t know when. I want to get better so when I do get up there, I’m ready to stay, I’m not going to go up and down.”
That is not a statement of bravado or an idle boast. It’s simply a statement of fact.
Lawrie’s arrival, which should be at some point this season — and we’re not talking September callup — will be the first in what general manager Alex Anthopoulos hopes will be a parade of exciting, young, athletic players.
This year’s Jays team will feature a lot of youth and in the coming seasons will continue to get younger.
“It’s exciting,” Lawrie said of what shortly will be his new team and new teammates. “Everyone likes to go balls to the wall all the time and everyone plays for one another and plays the game hard and plays the game the right way.”
There is a lot of hustle in Lawrie’s game and an engaging cockiness off the field. He knows he’s good and is only going to get better.
Despite all the praise he has received this spring, he didn’t let it get to his head, never allowed himself to artificially raise his expectation level.
Was there any point where he stopped and said to himself: ‘Wow, I’m going to make this team?’
“Yeah, some days, yeah,” he replied. “But then I stopped myself and went like: ‘Whoa, I can’t really think about those things because they’re really out of my control.’ There was a point where I said I don’t want to get my hopes too high so I don’t get overwhelmed and I don’t want to hear the news (of being sent down) and get absolutely crushed.
“So I was kind of saying to myself that it’s going to happen at some point so just keep working hard every day. If it happens, it happens. But if I don’t, then so be it.”
Then the hammer dropped on Wednesday.
“Obviously I’m a little disappointed but I knew it was going to happen at some point,” he said. “I think I got the best opportunity that I could to show what I had. I’m glad that I lasted as long as I did. I think I made a good impression and it’s going to make me work that much harder to get back where I want to be.”
It shouldn’t take long.