Lawrie to make MLB debut this week

Brett Lawrie is close to making his major-league debut with the Blue Jays. The club, however, wants...

Brett Lawrie is close to making his major-league debut with the Blue Jays. The club, however, wants to make sure that the third baseman is ready for prime time. (EDDIE MICHELS/File photo)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 PM ET

TORONTO - With Colby Rasmus their established centre fielder and no other deals engineered by Alex Anthopoulos at Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline, the next big thing on the Blue Jays horizon is the arrival of Brett Lawrie.

The odds are slim to none that he will make his major-league debut in St. Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Rays in the three-game series that begins Tuesday.

The odds are much better that he could arrive when the Jays travel to Baltimore to start a three-game series against the Orioles on Friday.

One way or another the Golden Brett will be up to the bigs this month with the certainty that when he arrives it will be on the road in the hopes of avoiding a complete circus-like atmosphere.

“We’d like to break him in on the road,” Anthopoulos, the Jays GM, said the other day. “Look at the zoo that Colby had to go through the first day.”

Lawrie, the 21-year-old pride and joy of Langley, B.C., will create a hysteria upon arrival as the former No. 1 pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008, who was obtained by the Jays in the off-season, is doing a Roy Hobbs impersonation down at triple-A Las Vegas.

He was murdering the ball and making strides defensively in his transition to third base when at the end of May he suffered a non-displaced fracture to a bone in the back of his left hand and missed six weeks.

He has been back at Vegas for 14 games now and he’s hitting .368 (21-for-57) with five doubles, two triples, three home runs, 11 RBIs and a .438 on-base percentage. But he also has struck out 12 times against just seven walks and those figures are concerning to Anthopoulos, who would like to get him to define the strike zone he established in May when he had 14 walks against 17 punch outs.

“He’s come back and he’s hit some home runs and he’s playing with a lot of energy as well,” Anthopoulos critiqued. “Obviously we think the world of him but at the same time we want him to get back to where he was in all of May. If you look at the April numbers (four walks against 23 strikeouts) and walk-to-strikeouts, he walked three times more in May and struck out less in more at-bats and the slugging percentage skyrocketed.

“It just goes to show you that when he’s a little more selective he can do a lot of damage.”

For Anthopoulos, it’s more than a gaudy batting average. He wants Lawrie to be selective within the zone and not chase pitches, a bad habit that would only be exploited to the nth degree when he ultimately runs into big-league pitching.

“He has such good eye-hand co-ordination that he makes contact but we just want to make sure that he continues to lay off the breaking balls down and away and gets locked in. That’s a big part of it,” Anthopoulos said. “But the biggest thing that I’m looking for in those boxscores is the strikeout rate and the walk rate and how deep the count he runs in each at-bat. That’s what he was doing in May and that’s what was so exciting about it.”

It’s about Lawrie building a base, a foundation that is strong enough that it will lead to success when he ultimately arrives.

“He hit 11 home runs in May but it’s not that we’re looking for home runs but that was the by-product of having a better eye at the plate and laying off (pitches) and grinding away,” Anthopoulos said. “That’s going to be the last part of his development from an offensive standpoint and we want to solidify that because it will be more challenging up here.”

So just when will Lawrie finally make his grand entrance? On that front Anthopoulos will offer no hint.

“We have no time line and we know everybody’s asking and that’s great because they’re interested in the player and excited about him,” he said. “But we have to do what’s right for the player.

“But you have to remember he’s only 21 and he’s had just two full seasons in the minor leagues and he’s going to have to go through growing pains no matter how talented he is.”

Is there any concern that the Jays may be rushing him, given his lack of professional seasoning?

“I wouldn’t say afraid, I just don’t believe in it,” Anthopoulos replied. “We can do it, we can call him up tomorrow. But you have to do what’s right for the club and the player.

“We didn’t get him to worry about when his first game is. We got him for hopefully a long big-league career and we have to make sure that everything we do is geared to that development.”

Make no mistake, though. The Brett Lawrie express is on track and will be coming to a big-league city real soon.


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