PHOENIX -– For a guy who’s missed so much time away from the field, Brett Lawrie isn’t being picky about where he plays once he’s on it.
He’s spent most of 2015 serving as the A’s everyday third baseman. But since Danny Valencia arrived Aug. 3, Lawrie has slid over to second base on many days -- a position he played frequently while with the Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s all good with Lawrie, whose first season with Oakland has to be considered a success from the standpoint that he’s been healthy enough to be penciled in regularly, at whatever position it might be.
Injuries sabotaged his first four-plus seasons in the bigs with Toronto. But Saturday’s 3-2 A’s victory over Arizona marked Lawrie’s 120th game of the season, just five shy of his career high, with 32 remaining on the schedule.
When the subject came up before Saturday’s game, Lawrie, 25, reached for the wooden wall that lined the side of his locker and knocked on it.
Don’t mess with a good thing.
“I try not to talk about it,” he said of his good health. “It’s just doing things a little bit differently, getting off a tough surface that I played on for a number of years (in Toronto). The overall mentality of trying to (control) the spots that kind of block me and don’t allow my body to go out there and perform.”
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With injuries not dominating the discussion, the focus turns to which position Lawrie might play moving forward. That’s no sure thing. Valencia has contributed nicely since being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays, to the point where he’s seeing regular time at third base and acquitting himself well.
In the 23 games since Valencia joined the A’s, Lawrie has started at second in 13 of them. He’s shifted back to third when Valencia has been the DH or gotten a day off.
“I try to keep it simple,” Lawrie said of bouncing back and forth. “Just think about picking up the ball and throwing them out, almost treat it as if it’s an (infield) shift (when I'm at second). I try not to think too much about it.”
These final five weeks will be important to the A’s in evaluating their infield with an eye toward 2016. One of the key issues is whether Valencia fits in and how that impacts Lawrie, who the A’s envisioned as a potential cornerstone upon his arrival in the Josh Donaldson trade.
Like Lawrie, Valencia is under team control through the 2017 season and will be affordable in salary arbitration, so he could be sticking around. If both players return next season, it stands to reason Lawrie could be seeing more time on the right side of the infield.
Manager Bob Melvin was non-committal when asked if Lawrie could become a regular second baseman.
“He gives us the option for both,” Melvin said. “In our organization, we do like the versatility.”
Lawrie was in the middle of two double plays the A’s turned in support of starter Aaron Brooks during Saturday’s victory, which was powered by a two-run homer and three RBI from Stephen Vogt.
The communication with shortstop Marcus Semien is a work in progress when Lawrie is at second. On Friday, Lawrie fielded a grounder near second, and rather than make the easy flip to Semien, he scrambled over to touch the bag himself and then forced an off-balance throw to first that wasn’t in time for the double play.
“He said, ‘I should have flipped you that ball instead of taking it myself,’” Semien said. “But that’s fine. If he makes a good throw we get the double play. Either way we’re good, as long as we’re on the same page.”
Though Lawrie was 0-for-4 on Saturday, he’s hitting a very respectable .272 with a career-high 13 homers and 52 RBI. Increasingly he’s shown more patience at the plate. He’s struck out 110 times, but 57 of those came in April and May alone.
The thunder in his bat was on display Friday when he crushed a 470-foot homer into the second deck in left at Chase Field. Earlier this month, Lawrie also launched one off a window of the Coliseum’s center field luxury suites.
“You look at him physically ... obviously he’s very well put together,” Melvin said. “He has the power. It’s probably a little more frequent now that he’s staying out on the field and getting consistent at-bats.”