ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Brett Lawrie, still looking to find his offensive groove, spent Thursday afternoon taking extra batting practice.
When he wasn't swinging for the fences, he was swinging back at Twitter followers expressing frustration with his slow start.
"All u people who chirp when things don't go good have never done anything in pro sport .. Ever .. So shut ur mouths #LetsGetThisThingg #jays," said Lawrie in a tweet that was later deleted.
He later clarified what he meant.
"I expect that," said Lawrie. "I expect a lot out of myself but at the same time, I'm not going to sit there and take all that from people that I don't know. So if I want to say something back, I have more than the right to. Freedom of speech. People want to come at me with something then I'm not scared to say something back."
As reporters meandered into the press box shortly before three o'clock, Lawrie could be seen down on the field, alone with hitting coach Chad Mottola, working on his swing. First he hit off a tee; he progressed to soft toss and finally, batting practice pitching.
"Just getting reps," said Lawrie. "Not necessarily working on anything, just getting reps, just getting rhythm that's about it."
Surely there was more to it.
"We're just trying to control him a little bit more," said Mottola. "The way he's wired his high intensity and in hitting most of the time it doesn't work. Just trying to get some things that will slow him down without saying take away his quick twitch. You know the way he plays third base, the way he hits he's got to be moving but we're just working on modifying that a little bit."
Lawrie was hitting .175 in 21 games; his on-base percentage a woeful .247 entering Thursday's action. Lawrie shrugs off as an "excuse" the notion he's still catching up after a spring training cut short by a ribcage injury suffered on March 6. Mottola, however, believes there's truth to it.
"We were trying to change some things from the prior year as well," said Mottola. "So I think he needed spring training more than other guys so he could go through the transition period of at bats meaning nothing. And the way he wants it so bad and the way he's probably worse than the way the public wants it so we've got to protect him against himself sometimes because he wants it so bad he tends to try to go get the ball out of the pitcher's hands. The way the game works you can't do that."
Manager John Gibbons removed Lawrie from the leadoff spot for the finale of the series against the Rays.
"Yeah he hasn't been getting on base a whole lot," said Gibbons. "Rajai's (Davis) in there against the lefty, we'll get him there at the top because that's a good spot for Raj when he's in there."
Mottola is conscious of Lawrie's intense nature; his inclination toward constant movement. The mechanical adjustments are minor – specifically moving Lawrie's hands in closer to his body – and aren't meant to change Lawrie's approach at the plate, which Mottola doesn't believe is an issue.
"Every guy is wired differently and that's the way he's wired so we can't take that away," said Mottola. "We're just trying to modify it and control it and put it in different spots of his swing. Saying, okay, you can do all this but let's not do it as much with the body. He's seeing the ball well because he's laying off some tough pitches, he's getting in to hitter's counts but he's not doing what he should do once he gets in those hitter's counts so we're just trying to shorten it up a little bit."
"This is one of those things," said Lawrie of his slump and his effort to work out of it. "You've just got to keep grinding it out, a lot of ABs and a lot of games to go so I've got to stick to what I'm doing, stick to my plan and just keep getting my work in and keep doing it."