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Lawrie moved to second to optimize NL park lineup

Lawrie moved to second to optimize NL park lineup

PITTSBURGH -- The arrival of Interleague Play has resulted in Brett Lawrie being transitioned to second base for the second consecutive year.

Lawrie made six starts at second base last season as the Blue Jays contemplated moving him to the position on a full-time basis. The experiment ultimately ended with the club deciding he was best suited for third, but the concept was revisited for Friday night's game in Pittsburgh.

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With Lawrie moved across the diamond, that enabled the Blue Jays to insert Juan Francisco into the lineup at third base. Manager John Gibbons wouldn't commit to a specific timeline for the temporary move, but it's realistic to expect Toronto to keep the same lineup until the club returns home on Wednesday.

"I'm not uncomfortable about it, [but] I'm a third baseman," Lawrie said. "I don't necessarily like going across the diamond and playing second base because I'm not a second baseman, that's not what I'm here to do. I'm here to play third base but if it helps the team, then that's what I'm here to do."

The decision appears to have caught Lawrie at least somewhat off guard. He didn't take groundballs at the position until Friday afternoon and there doesn't appear to have been a lot of time to prepare. Lawrie does have an extensive history at the position, though, as he came up through Milwaukee's Minor League system as a second baseman.

There's also the fact that Lawrie is frequently on the right side of the infield when the Blue Jays implement a defensive shift vs. left-handed hitters. Lawrie typically plays in shallow right field during those scenarios, but there will be added responsibilities at second base, including turning double plays.

"It's a different mindset," Lawrie said. "The overshift, I know I'm going over there in deep right field but I know I'm going right back to third base. Today it's permanently at that position. For me, I enjoy the game when I'm not thinking.

"Second base, you're worrying about double plays, you're worrying about all these different things, I do my best when I'm not thinking at all but it's part of it, I've done it before, no excuses I'm going to go out there, play hard and see what happens."

The main reason behind Friday night's move was the Blue Jays wanted to find a way to get the most offense out of their lineup. Francisco has been a reliable contributor at designated hitter since he was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo on April 19 and entered play Friday night hitting .275 with three homers and six RBIs in 11 games.

There continues to be a concern about the production of Toronto's starting rotation and until the pitchers start to turn things around, it appears as though the Blue Jays are going to put a greater emphasis on maximizing their offense.

"We win more games when we score more runs," Gibbons said. "We've been giving up runs. A lot of it is based on what Francisco has done since he got here. We didn't know what we had, but he's hit pretty well.

"That's one bat, short-right-field wall, we think we need some production so we'll give it a try and if it doesn't work we'll move on from that. Even with the great defense, we were still below .500, it's not like we're sitting five games over. We expect we need to score."

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.

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