Brett Lawrie mature beyond his years
Blue Jays third baseman ready, healthy for 2012 season
Pressure? Expectations? Apprehension? Beyond the definitions, Brett Lawrie, the Blue Jays' third baseman and superstar-in-waiting, knows none of them.
From prospect to phenom to Major Leaguer, Lawrie lives in the moment. Everything else is just ancillary stuff. Nervous is not in his vocabulary.
"I just go out and play. I don't worry about the baggage that comes with it," he said. "That'll take care of itself. Whatever happens, happens."
His demeanor belies his 22 years. To Blue Jays manager John Farrell, youthfulness and leadership aren't mutually exclusive.
"The one thing about Brett is, even for his age, he's a mature kid," Farrell said recently. "He's got one thought on his mind and that's winning. And when it comes to the accolades, the publicity, to his credit he keeps things in their proper perspective."
Farrell said Lawrie's personality, performance and confidence rub off on the rest of the Blue Jays. It also revs up the fans in Canada. He's one of them, a native of Langley, British Columbia.
"He knows he's a good player, and he can stand out among some of the best in the game," Farrell said. "He's part of the heartbeat of this team, even at a very early age.
"To me, leadership doesn't have an age attached to it. He's respectful to his teammates, he's respectful to the game and he's one heck of a player."
Lawrie missed eight preseason games with tightness in his left groin and came out of Spring Training with a .523 batting average in 42 at-bats, first on the team among players with more than just a few ABs.
"Obviously, coming into the season, you want to come in kind of on top and keep it rolling," he said.
The momentum halted, at least for one game, when he went 0-for-6 with two strikeouts in the Blue Jays' 16-inning, season-opening win at Cleveland on Thursday.
In 2011, Lawrie started the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. He tore up the Pacific Coast League, batting .353 in 69 games with 18 home runs, 61 RBIs, 13 stolen bases and a 1.076 OPS.
But he suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a pitch May 31, a few days before his planned callup by the Blue Jays.
He finally made his Blue Jays debut Aug. 5. In 43 games, he hit .293 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs before a Sept. 21 broken right middle finger in fielding practice ended his first big league season.
In the months before August, fans were clamoring for Lawrie.
"Yeah, there were a lot of them ready for me, and I think I was ready, too." he said. "But I had some bad luck with my hand and when I came back I was ready to rock and then came the unfortunate accident."
Lawrie said that when the season ended he had two things on his mind: "Cooling the jets a little bit, recapping the year, playing golf, stuff like that -- and recharging my batteries to get fired up for this year."
Lawrie may find the going a little tougher this time around. His pedal-to-the-metal style of play over a full Major League season can wear a guy out or make him more susceptible to injury. And teams now have a "book" on him -- video on his batting technique and maybe ways to deal with it.
But Farrell said the 150 at-bats last year "went a long way in his belief that he can handle any kind of pitching he's going to see. I think at the age that he is and his production, even in a short glimpse, he's got a chance to be pretty special."
Bruce Lowitt is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.