Lawrie not thrown by assignment to Triple-A

Lawrie not thrown by assignment to Triple-A

Lawrie not thrown by assignment to Triple-A
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Brett Lawrie sounds like a completely different player this spring.

The 21-year-old made headlines during the offseason when he proclaimed that he was through with the Minor Leagues and ready for the next level.

While taking part in his first camp with the Blue Jays, though, he struck a much different tone. Lawrie showed increased maturity both on and off the field, and when he received news on Wednesday that he was being sent down, he was gracious in discussing his time with the big league club.

"Obviously, [I'm] a little disappointed, but I knew it going to happen at some point," Lawrie said. "I think it's one of those things for me where I got the best opportunity that I could to show what I have. I'm just so glad that I lasted as long as I did. I think I made a good impression on some guys, and it's going to make me work that much harder to get back to where I need to be."

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Toronto's third baseman of the future became one of the breakout performers during Spring Training, as he showcased his abilities at the plate and in the field.

Lawrie hit .282 (11-for-39) with two home runs and six RBIs in 17 Grapefruit League games. There were times when manager John Farrell was so impressed, he would go out of his way to praise the young infielder.

It's clear that Lawrie is highly regarded by the organization, but he kept his expectations in line, even when there were moments he thought there might be a chance to head north with the team.

"Some days, yeah, I thought I was doing well," Lawrie said. "But then I kind of stopped myself. ... I can't worry about those things because they're out of my control. There was a point where I just said, 'Well, I don't want to get my hopes up too high, so I just don't get overwhelmed; I don't want to hear the news and absolutely get crushed.'"

Last season, Lawrie hit .285 with 63 RBIs and 60 extra-base hits in Double-A. He is now set to begin the year at Triple-A Las Vegas. How long he stays in the Minor Leagues will remain a lingering question as the season progresses.

Farrell said the club's initial plan may have been altered by Lawrie's performance in camp.

"What he did is affect what our view of his timeline of readiness for the Major Leagues is," Farrell said. "When you acquire a player, you fully don't know above and beyond the scouting reports what a player is like. ... We got a first hand look at that for the last five weeks, and it's a very good one.

"[Lawrie] was prepared to start the year at Las Vegas, but I think what we've done is examine how long in the future that [promotion] might be. We still don't know the exact date, but I think it might be shorter than what we first anticipated."

Lawrie's abilities at the plate are well documented. He is expected to become an above-average hitter, who possesses plus bat speed and should generate more power as he continues to mature.

The biggest question mark entering Spring Training, though, was about Lawrie's defensive abilities. He was selected 16th overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft as a catcher, but came up through Milwaukee's Minor League system as a second baseman.

This spring, he transitioned to third base, and the results have been mostly positive. Lawrie has displayed good range with a strong, reliable throwing arm. He spent the Grapefruit League season working with third-base coach Brian Butterfield and veterans John McDonald and Jose Bautista, which he says made a big difference to his approach.

"It was good for me because I had never had that kind of instruction at a position," Lawrie said. "It was kind of just throwing me out there to see what I could do. I was successful enough that I could get out there and have some fun and obviously get the best opportunity to play whenever I got to go in.

"I feel pretty comfortable over there. There's nothing that I'm too overwhelmed about. ... I think when I get into a game scenario, my instinct kind of kicks in."

Lawrie came to the Blue Jays in an offseason trade for No. 1 starter Shaun Marcum. He received an invitation to attend a Major League Spring Training camp for the first time in his career, but had no idea what the future had in store.

Any nervousness he may have felt came to an end when catcher J.P. Arencibia and left fielder Travis Snider asked him to become their roommate in Florida.

"I didn't know what to expect coming in," Lawrie said. "I had a new clubhouse full of guys that I've never known before. I'm just thankful that J.P. and Travis reached out to me before spring.

"I think once I was kind of comfortable with the guys, hanging out with them, that's what settled me down, and I was glad that I had some people at the park. Once you know your teammates and you're comfortable with everybody, and you know everyone is playing for for one another, then things will go well."

Now Lawrie's attention will switch back to Triple-A. His work at third base will continue, and he'll look to increase his power numbers after hitting just eight home runs in 2010.

Judging by the initial reports from Spring Training, though, it's a matter of when, not if, Lawrie will get the call to the Major Leagues.

"I think that's the same impression I got," Lawrie said. "But I'm not going to worry about that, because 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 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 go about my business, and I want to get my work in and I want to get better. So when I do get up there, I'm there to stay; I'm not there to go up and down."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.