MacArthur: Lawrie's confidence at second could move infield

Scott MacArthur,
4/14/2013 4:34:05 PM
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KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Heads turned when the Dunedin Blue Jays' Twitter account announced Brett Lawrie would be playing second base in Sunday's Single-A game.

It wasn't a typo and there is a reason.

In the wake of Jose Reyes' injury, a sprained ankle that will keep him out until the All-Star break, the Blue Jays are considering the possibility of an infield that includes Lawrie at second and Jose Bautista at third.

“It's something that we want to take a look at but again, it's not something we're ready to commit to,” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “It's just more of a chance to do it and this is probably as good a time as any. But again, if we don't feel good about it than it's something we're not necessarily going to go forward with. So we'll just take the next few games to take a look.”

Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons first discussed the idea on Friday night, in Gibbons' office, not long after the game in which Reyes was injured ended.

Lawrie, 23, is close to returning to the Blue Jays. He remained in Dunedin, rehabbing a strained ribcage muscle suffered March 6, when the team broke camp. While Lawrie's expected to make his season debut later this week, a specific date hasn't been set.

Drafted by Milwaukee in 2008 as a catcher, Lawrie spent two minor league seasons in the Brewers' organization as a second baseman. Anthopoulos says Lawrie, who took ground balls at second base on Saturday, is open to the move.

“Very receptive, surprisingly receptive,” said Anthopoulos of Lawrie's reaction. “I said ‘what do you think' and he was very confident, which doesn't surprise me. If I told him ‘Brett can you pitch two innings' he'd probably tell me he could throw two shutout innings. It's what you'd expect him to say, ‘I'll do anything you want, anything for the team,' all the right things. I said I know you're going to tell me that because I'm the general manager but I need you to be honest too. He said ‘no I feel good really good there, I've done it.'”

The potential move doesn't affect the Blue Jays' options at shortstop. Maicer Izturis, who's started 163 career games at the position, will get time there. Munenori Kawasaki, called up from Buffalo on Saturday, isn't a long-term solution. Anthopoulos is working the phones, seeing what's available, but he won't overpay.

“If we can upgrade we certainly will,” he said. “I think you'll see, right now, Kawasaki play there, Izturis play there like we've been doing. But I don't think it would change anything. If we can upgrade, obviously Jose's out for a significant period of time, we would still look to upgrade.”

The consideration of playing Lawrie at second base is a direct result of Emilio Bonifacio's inability to play the position consistently. In a perfect world, with Reyes down, Bautista remains in right field and the Blue Jays work Lawrie-Izturis-Bonifacio around the infield.

“I think it's just trying to come up with ways that your lineup can be better and you're trying to take some of your better players,” said Anthopoulos. “We know guys like Izturis can obviously play short, we know Bonifacio can play all over the place … It's just a matter of trying to optimize your lineup and we are pretty deep in the outfield.”

With Rajai Davis and Casper Wells on the active roster, the Blue Jays have outfield depth. The depth extends to the minor leagues – specifically Buffalo – where Anthony Gose is waiting his turn.

The 22-year-old impressed in spring training but Anthopoulos wants him to get his reps in Triple-A. For now.

“But down the road, sure,” he said. “I mean it definitely opens up a spot. We haven't talked about Anthony, he's just gotten started down there and they've been rained out the last four or five games so he hasn't entered into the conversation at that point. Down the road, if we go this route, and a month from now or two months from now, if Anthony's playing great and he deserves to be up here, sure it could open up a spot for him.”

Lawrie is working with roving infield instructor Mike Mordecai, who also helped with his transition to third base.

It's an experiment for the moment; a decision will be made, one way or the other, within days.

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