BALTIMORE - Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, a man who provides answers as a Baltimore Orioles broadcaster, had a question.
“Where do you find a player like Brett Lawrie?” Palmer asked Thursday afternoon.
“He’s 21. Imagine if he went to college. What would it cost to sign him? $4 million? $5 million or more? I mean I loved Shaun Marcum ... he could throw a changeup for a strike any time in the count,” said Palmer of the Milwaukee Brewers-Toronto Blue Jays trade back in December that brought Lawrie to Hogtown.
“Lawrie has a short swing, he reminds me of Jeff Bagwell.”
Lawrie pulled a first-pitch fastball from Baltimore's Willie Eyre 373 feet to left field for a two-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Blue Jays an 8-6 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards Thursday afternoon.
“(Jays manager) John Farrell told me early in the season before (Lawrie) was called up how he has a presence, how you look at him and you get the feeling the game is about to change,” said Palmer. “He’s hitting homers when he’s not even trying to hit home runs. He will learn how to steal bases.
“And ... did I mention he’s CANADIAN?”
The Langley, B.C., native muscled a 1-2 pitch from O’s starter Tommy Hunter into right field in the second for a single, hit a ground-rule double to right-centre in the fourth and then hit his seventh homer of the season to left in the eighth.
Lawrie also handled himself well in the field at third base. With the Jays leading by a run in the sixth, he fielded a grounder from Nolan Reimold, took his time and threw out Vladimir Guerrero at the plate. He also made a highlight-reel play in the fourth on an Adam Jones grounder.
Jays starter Luis Perez went for a long stroll after he thought his 2-2 pitch to Guerrero was a strike in the fourth. Plate umpire Joe (Cowboy) West adjudged it as a ball. After fouling one off, Guerrero homered to straightaway centre, 422 feet ... Six pitches later, Matt Wieters hit a 3-2 Perez offering 417 feet to centre for a solo shot, cutting the Jays lead to 4-2 ... Perez pitched five innings, walking three in the sixth before being hooked ... The box score will show Perez retired 15 men, however, he got one more than that. He would have retired Robert Andino in the third on a liner to centre fielder Mike McCoy, only to discover West had called “no pitch.” ... Perez was guilty of a quick pitch. Given a second chance, Andino singled ... Worried about Guerrero (11 steals in the previous four years) having too much of a lead off second base in the sixth, reliever Jesse Litsch attempted a pick off and threw the ball into centre. The runners advanced, creating a second and third, one-out situation ... Toronto's Yunel Escobar, who doubled and singled twice, knocked in a pair of runs ... Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson homered for the second time in as many nights, this one off Hunter in the sixth ... McCoy caught J.J. Hardy’s drive on the track in the first ... Toronto's Shawn Camp picked up the win.
Don Wakamatsu managed his seventh game for the Jays Thursday afternoon. He did his post-game interviews standing outside the clubhouse in a Camden Yards hallway as he did the previous two nights. Not once has he sat in the chair in the office of Farrell, sidelined with pneumonia ... Wakamatu’s approach is quite unlike that of former hitting coach Gene Tenace’s. The day former Jays manager Cito Gaston left the club due to back surgery in 1989, Tenace managed Toronto to a win over the Cleveland Indians. When reporters walked into the manager’s office, Tenace was sitting in Gaston’s chair, with his feet up on Gaston’s desk ... “I’ve never sat in (Farrell's) chair once, and I won’t,” said Wakamatsu.
In 26 games since being called up to the Jays, Lawrie leads all MLB rookies in triples (four), slugging percentage (.713), extra-base hits (17), total bases (67) and OPS (1.066). He shares the lead with seven homers ... “You have to play every day like it’s your last day,” Lawrie told reporters. “In the eighth I knew I had to get the runner over, I wasn’t trying to hit a home run ... but you have to be able to do it at every park. I’m looking forward to playing at Yankee Stadium. I watched games from (New York) on TV growing up, watched a lot of guys they have on TV.” ... Against the Orioles this series, Lawrie hit .368 (7-for-19) a double, two homers and six RBIs ... “He was fired up after the home run,” said roommate J.P. Arencibia, “but he’s fired up the whole day. He’s fired up when he’s sitting on the bench.”
The Baltimore Grand Prix disrupted inner harbour traffic as barricades were set up for the weekend race, while other street were closed in preparation for the race ... Just what every marketing department wants to hear on a Baltimore radio Thursday morn: “Don’t go into the harbour area, traffic will be a mess.” ... Originally scheduled for a night game, Thursday's afternoon contest draw an announced crowd of 11,617 fans ... Some 90 minutes before the 12:35 p.m. start, O’s manager Buck Showalter was concerned about whether all his players would arrive on time.