On cusp of callup, Lawrie gets plunked
Snider, Cecil making strides with Triple-A Las Vegas
TORONTO -- Top prospect Brett Lawrie is "close" to joining the Blue Jays, but a plunking on Tuesday gave the club a scare.
Mere hours after Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos suggested Lawrie was on the cusp of a Major League callup, the blue-chip prospect was hit on the top of the left hand by a pitch in a Triple-A game.
Anthopoulos told ESPN's Buster Olney on Wednesday morning that Lawrie is fine and just bruised. Tuesday night, Lawrie gave an update on his Twitter profile, @blawrie13, writing: "At hospital , pls be bruised .. #praying."
Anthopoulos spoke to reporters at length about several players currently with Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday, including Lawrie -- who appeared to be on the verge of joining the big league club as early as this weekend in Baltimore.
"He's close," Anthopoulos said before Lawrie's injury. "I was hoping he was going to force our hand, and he's starting to. He's very much in the conversation right now. ... At this point, it's just a decision we need to make."
In recent weeks, the Blue Jays have sent several front-office members to Las Vegas to get a look at their blue-chip prospect, including roving infield coach Mike Mordecai and assistant general manager Tony LaCava. Mordecai came back with glowing reviews of Lawrie's improved work in the field.
"The strides he's made defensively have been amazing," Anthopoulos said of Lawrie, who is making a transition from second to third base. "He's really come a long way, and he's looked good."
The primary area the Blue Jays were waiting to see improvement on before calling Lawrie up was his plate discipline. In April, the 21-year-old drew just four walks while striking out 23 times, numbers that raised alarm bells for Anthopoulos and the rest of the Blue Jays brain trust.
But since being asked to improve his discipline in late April, the results have been night and day. Lawrie has drawn 14 walks in May while striking out just 17 times.
"I get excited when I read that he laid off sliders. I don't care if he went 0-for-4 with four hard-hit balls. If he laid off sliders that were out of the zone, that's more encouraging," Anthopoulos said.
Lawrie is hitting .354 in 52 games this season at Triple-A, with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs. He leads the Pacific Coast League in hits (79), extra-base hits (38), doubles (15), runs (51) and total bases (151).
Lawrie had hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games entering Tuesday, batting .443 (27-for-61) with six jacks and 18 RBIs over that span.
But despite his remarkable and immediate success at the plate throughout his first season in the Blue Jays system, Lawrie has been receptive to all of the fundamental changes the Blue Jays have asked him to make.
"It's very hard to tell a hitter who's hitting .400, 'You have to make changes,'" Anthopoulos said. "But he's getting to the point where he's really done everything that we've asked."
Anthopoulos has been known to debut top prospects at the beginning of road series to let them get accustomed to life in the Majors away from the pressures of playing at home.
Earlier this season, both first baseman David Cooper and outfielder Eric Thames were brought up from Triple-A Las Vegas during road trips. Additionally, top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek made his Major League debut for the Blue Jays in 2010 against the Orioles in Baltimore.
The Blue Jays will finish their three-game set with Cleveland on Wednesday, before leaving for a seven-game road trip on Friday starting in Baltimore.
Meanwhile, both Travis Snider and Brett Cecil continue to progress in Las Vegas as they work on the issues with their games that saw them sent to Triple-A earlier this season.
Snider has been working on the fundamentals of his swing, which the Blue Jays felt was developing some bad tendencies.
"He's starting to make those changes, and starting to incorporate them into his swing. But he's not there yet," Anthopoulos said. "We're trying to get his swing down. And I think that once he gets that cemented, the rest will come."
In his 30 games since joining Las Vegas, Snider is hitting .299 (38-for-127) with nine doubles and 23 RBIs. Known for having a great deal of raw power to all fields, Snider has hit just one home run during his Triple-A stint.
But neither Anthopoulos nor Blue Jays manager John Farrell said they were concerned with the lack of power. In fact, they aren't looking at his numbers at all.
"We're not focusing on the results," Farrell said. "We're looking at the fundamental adjustments that are being looked at to accomplish and maintain."
Snider has been asked to focus on working on his swing in the Minors, and not to worry about his numbers. And while the progress reports have been mixed, he has started to produce more hard-hit balls in recent games.
"We're monitoring the hard hits against some of the better [pitchers] to be found in the PCL, which is going to be more similar to what he'll face here," Farrell said. "It's a matter of taking where you are today and getting back to a position with your swing that allows you to hit Major League pitching."
Finally, Cecil continues to work on finding the velocity and control that made him so effective last year for the Blue Jays, but were absent throughout this year's Spring Training and into the regular season.
"Cecil has made strides. Obviously, the performance has been good. He continues to work on things," Anthopoulos said. "There's times where the ball will still be up in the zone, and he needs to get back to that downhill play and being down in the zone."
Cecil has made seven starts for Las Vegas, going 6-1 with a 5.89 ERA. He's allowed 54 hits and 33 runs (29 earned) over his 44 1/3 innings pitched, striking out 35 and walking 14.
He was sent down after just four starts for the Blue Jays in 2011. He went 1-2 in those outings, allowing 24 hits and 16 earned runs in 21 innings. His velocity was primarily in the mid-to-high 80s, which was down from the 91-93 mph range he was hitting consistently in 2010.
"He's getting there," Anthopoulos said. "All of the scouts that have been there have said that for an inning or two it's the guy that we saw last year. Then the other innings he reverted back."
Arden Zwelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.