Injuries will not force Lawrie's promotion
Blue Jays want prospect to spend more time learning third base
TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Farrell indicated on Sunday afternoon that he has no intention of allowing his club's recent injury woes to impact when Brett Lawrie gets a call to the Major Leagues.
Lawrie, who entered the season ranked No. 28 on MLB.com's list of top prospects, has been labeled as Toronto's third baseman of the future.
Recent injuries to infielders Jayson Nix and Aaron Hill, though, have caused many Blue Jays supporters to question whether Lawrie should be the third baseman of the present as well.
That type of reactionary roster management is not how Farrell would like to operate when it comes to the organization's top young talent.
"We're extremely excited about Brett Lawrie's arrival, whenever that is," Farrell said. "But at the same time, we have to look at an individual's development path, not sacrifice it because there is a need, or there might be a projected better fit of the current roster here.
"We have to do what's best for Brett Lawrie, first and foremost. I think if you always keep the player's best interest in the forefront you typically make the better decision."
At least on paper, Lawrie's bat appears Major League ready now. The 21-year-old has hit .435 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 16 games with Triple-A Las Vegas.
Those numbers follow a season in which he led the Southern League in hits (158), triples (16), runs scored (90) and extra-base hits (60) while playing for Double-A Huntsville.
Lawrie's stats this season are expected to eventually drop, once opposing pitchers get more advanced scouting reports on his approach at the plate. Teams will have a better feel for his areas of weakness and plan accordingly.
How Lawrie responds to his first extended slump at the plate will be very telling of his ability to make adjustments. Farrell believes Lawrie is the type of person that will be able to make that transition easier than most.
"He is very strong from a mental standpoint," Farrell said. "This is a very competitive, not a fragile makeup type of person. Those are all things you can take comfort in when he's going to face those challenges for the first time, or when he might face his first slump at this level.
"All players go through it, but when you measure the physical and the mental side of it, a lot of the positives are there."
Lawrie's training at third base has continued with mixed results in Las Vegas. He has shown an impressive amount of range and athleticism at the position, but he also has committed six errors in 16 games this season.
Farrell said the majority of those mistakes came on throws when Lawrie was on the run. The 6-foot infielder occasionally has had trouble with making an accurate toss when his feet aren't firmly planted.
That's not a completely unexpected issue for a guy that spent the past two seasons in the Minor Leagues playing second.
"He has plenty of arm strength to play there," Farrell said of Lawrie's skills at third. "He has plenty of range ... but the fact is, he had four weeks in Spring Training of playing a new position. So we're looking at seven weeks [total] at a new position for him.
"He can play it, but we want to be sure that we give him enough game situations, enough game awareness at that position, so when he does come up here it's not just survival. It's having a foundation that he can make the proper decisions at this level."
Time hasn't expired on Lawrie's time in the Minors, but it's clear the clock is ticking. When asked if Lawrie could see time in Toronto this season, Farrell responded: "I would hope so."
Toronto's manager also indicated that eventually getting some big league innings under Lawrie's belt will prove essential for his long-term development. And not just the typical September callup when rosters can expand to 40 players either.
"Experience some time prior to September, because I firmly believe it's a different game in the months of April through August than it is in September," Farrell said. "Spring Training evaluations and September evaluations can be similar.
"Whether or not that's at some month here in the middle of the summer that he comes up here, I can't sit here today and say that. But that experience this year would certainly go a long way to getting a better, more accurate read on what we can expect in 2012."