video thumbnail

PHI@TOR: Lawrie opens scoring with an RBI double

Back in 2008, after the Brewers made a prep catcher from British Columbia their first-round Draft pick, Brett Lawrie predicted he'd ride the fast track to Miller Park.

"One hundred percent," Lawrie said then, "I see myself there, hopefully, in a year and a half."

It took four years and a change of uniforms, but here he comes.

Lawrie will make his first Major League visit to Milwaukee this week when his new team, the Blue Jays, faces his old one, the Brewers, in a three-game Interleague series that begins on Monday.

"It's just another game to me," Lawrie said. "It's really not going to be much different than any other game for me."

But this is not exactly just another game, or a friendly visit. Lawrie soured on the Brewers, and vice versa, during a Minor League tenure that included position changes from catcher to second base to third base -- all Lawrie's calls -- as he searched for the fastest route to Milwaukee. Adding to the enmity was a clash over the 2010 Arizona Fall League and what Lawrie characterizes as the Brewers' attempts to change him by curbing his ultra-aggressive attitude.

The AFL dispute was chronicled in an ESPN.com story this spring. Lawrie was upset he did not receive a September callup to the Brewers after batting .285 with 60 extra-base hits in 135 games at Double-A Huntsville and appearing in the All-Star Futures Game. When the Brewers assigned him instead to the prospect-rich AFL, he said no.

A few months later, the Brewers traded Lawrie to Toronto for Shaun Marcum, filling Milwaukee's need for starting pitching. Marcum will start the middle game of the series on Tuesday, after Randy Wolf pitches Monday's series opener.

It was a swap both teams would probably make again.

The Blue Jays got a budding superstar in Lawrie, who debuted with a .953 OPS in 43 games last season and ended Sunday as a 22-year-old batting .286 with five home runs and 26 RBIs in 62 games. He has made 61 starts for Toronto at third base.

Marcum is 18-10 with a 3.50 ERA in 46 Brewers starts, including 5-3 with a 3.39 ERA this season, in his last year before free agency. He might have struggled late in 2011, but was far and away the Brewers' most reliable starter early in the season, when Yovani Gallardo was struggling and Zack Greinke was on the disabled list. Without Marcum, manager Ron Roenicke has argued, the Brewers might never have had the chance to play all the way to Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

Marcum will face some former teammates, including Jays slugger Jose Bautista, who "hits everything." Marcum will also get his first in-person look at Lawrie, whom he knows mostly from a May blow-up in which Lawrie spiked his helmet, which took an unlucky bounce and struck umpire Bill Miller, earning Lawrie a four-game suspension.

"I think the last time I paid attention to him was when he did the helmet-throwing incident, just to see what the heck was going on," Marcum said. "From talking to some of the guys up there and watching highlights, it seems like he plays the game hard. It looks like he's having some success and is going to be a really good player. It will be interesting to see how his career shapes [up]."

Lawrie was happy to get a fresh start with the Blue Jays.

"I think just the way things are handled here is a little bit better and it gives me a new insight on two different organizations, and allows me to just start fresh," he said. "That's what it did for me, was a new opportunity for myself and for my family. Obviously, coming to Toronto, being a Canadian guy, it opened up a few more doors for me than Milwaukee did -- and it definitely worked out for the best."

Is he still close with anyone from the Milwaukee organization?

"No, not really," Lawrie said. "It's different when you move organizations, especially when you haven't made it to the big leagues in another organization. It's tough, because I was never given an opportunity to get to know any of the guys over there. I think maybe I know a couple, but these are my guys here now."

With the trade, Lawrie said, "I got a new opportunity to meet a new bunch of guys, start fresh and get my career under way."

Blue Jays: Lawrie embraces leadoff spot
• When Lawrie takes on his former organization on Monday, he'll likely do so from the leadoff spot that he's occupied for nearly two weeks.

Since moving from the lower half of the order on June 5, Lawrie is batting .306 in 49 at-bats. He's scored eight runs, while also driving in five in 12 games. Lawrie said he likes what the leadoff spot allows him to do.

"I'm a middle of the order leadoff guy, I guess you could say," Lawrie said. "It's not a bad spot for me. It gets me a lot of at-bats, allows me to get on base more for these guys and create some more opportunities to do some damage."

Brewers: Crew tries to find home magic
• After salvaging their six-game Interleague road trip with a series win over the Twins this weekend, the Brewers return home to Miller Park looking to find the success they had there last season.

Through 33 home games this season, Milwaukee is one game under .500 (16-17). Compare that to last season, when the Brewers led the Majors with a 57-24 mark at home, and the results have been drastically different.

Milwaukee is 5-4 at home this month, with five more games at Miller Park on the horizon in June.

Worth Noting
• Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun extended his Interleague hit streak to 22 games on Sunday, the longest active streak in the Majors. Overall, Braun is on a 12-game hit streak, tied with third baseman Aramis Ramirez for the longest by a Brewers player this season.

• Bautista has reached base safely in his last 17 games, and has also hit seven home home runs in his last 14 contests.

MLB.com Comments