TORONTO - Brett Lawrie is back. Nothing has, or will, change.
"Standard" was Lawrie's response when asked whether he would adjust his playing style to protect his core after two separate injuries, one to each side of his ribcage, in the past eight months.
The 23-year-old played in a Single-A game in Dunedin on Monday, boarded a Tampa-to-Buffalo flight on Tuesday morning, made the drive from Buffalo and arrived at Rogers Centre shortly before four o'clock. If he was tired, you'd never know it. His arrival, not surprisingly, was difficult to miss.
Lawrie barreled in to the clubhouse, a duffel bag on one arm, an equipment bag on the other. After dropping his luggage at his locker stall, he moved about the room, high fiving and embracing every available teammate.
"We already had energy before the season started and I'm just glad that I can help," said Lawrie. "I just want to help the boys out, put a smile on everyone else's face and help the boys out. That's what I'm here to do."
"Everybody likes him," said manager John Gibbons. "He's a ball of fire in the room. In a lot of ways he's just like Kawasaki gave us that. Lawrie's the same way; he sets the tone for a lot of things even if he's not playing good. If he's going through a tough stretch, just the way he approaches the game helps everybody. It makes the team better."
There have been some surprises along the way as Lawrie's worked his way back to the Blue Jays. Initially injured on March 6 in a Team Canada tune up game before the World Baseball Classic, neither club nor player thought Lawrie would miss opening day.
"I didn't really think it was going to take that long but that's the thing, you can never put a timetable on that kind of injury," said Lawrie. "You always just have to kind of go about it yourself. Everybody's different, everybody heals differently and unfortunately for myself it took a few more days than expected but I'm here."
Lawrie returned to action last Thursday, his first of three extended spring training games. By the time he was playing for the Dunedin Blue Jays, on Sunday, he was at second base. In the wake of Jose Reyes' ankle injury and with the infield defense struggling in general, consideration was given to moving Lawrie to second and shuttling Jose Bautista to third base from right field. Those plans changed, it seemed, the moment Bautista came down with back spasms on Monday.
"That's just obviously something that they have in their back pocket now," said Lawrie of playing second base. "If anything were to occur on the field they know that they can put me over at second base with no hesitation and they don't really have to worry about that. For the most part I'm a third baseman and if they need me to go over there, whatever I can do to help the team."
"He's one of the better guys in the league," said Gibbons of Lawrie's work at third base. "I think everybody thinks he's got a shot at winning a gold glove some day. He's one of those guys, I've talked about it before, at this level you've got to take away hits and he's one of those guys who can take away hits."
When Bautista returns, which will be soon, Gibbons will execute the Emilio Bonifacio/Maicer Izturis platoon at second base. For the time being, Munenori Kawasaki is playing shortstop; Izturis will get some playing time there, too. Lawrie has never played with Kawasaki, who didn't sign with the Blue Jays until March 14.
"If you play multiple games with one another you just get comfortable," said Lawrie. "That's the thing, it's just getting comfortable with one another because he and I haven't played together before so it's just about going out there and playing and just getting comfortable."
The manager just got more comfortable with the state of the left side of his infield. But it'll be a while yet before Gibbons gets to put Lawrie and Reyes out there together for the first time.