MESA, Ariz. – The A’s got a wide-ranging sample Saturday of how Brett Lawrie can impact a game.
The third baseman went deep for his first home run of the spring, then made a dazzling defensive play that kept an inning from unraveling for right-hander Jesse Hahn.
A’s officials have talked a lot about the two-way impact they think Lawrie can make in his first season with Oakland. In an 8-1 exhibition victory over Cincinnati, there was concrete evidence of that.
“He has a lot of range over there,” Hahn said, “so a lot of those shots that would usually get down the line, he doesn’t let ‘em get down there. He can save you a lot of runs.”
Hahn, vying for a spot in the rotation, opened the fourth by allowing Marlon Byrd’s single and walking Todd Frazier. Brennan Boesch followed by shooting a line drive that appeared headed for extra bases to the left-field corner. But Lawrie made a lunging attempt to his right to snare the liner for a big out.
“That pumped me up,” Hahn said. “It got me going and that just turned everything around for me.”
But Hahn had work to do to escape the jam after his errant pickoff throw put runners on second and third with one out. He proceeded to strike out Brayan Pena swinging and retire Chris Dominguez on a grounder to short to keep the Reds off the board.
The right-hander worked five shutout innings, giving up four hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He got ahead in counts, which allowed him to utilize the curve that’s his put-away pitch. He also was happy with the five or so changeups he threw, a pitch that he’s trying to improve during Cactus League games.
“Terrific today,” Melvin said of Hahn. “And you want to see a guy get into some jams and see how he responds to that. He’s working on some things, being a little quicker to the plate. … The curve ball was good today. He kept the ball down and got some sinker ground balls when he needed to.”
And he got a big assist on the play from Lawrie, who had the reputation with Toronto of being an excellent fielder with good range when he’s been healthy. Though the departure of Josh Donaldson leaves a huge void – he was dealt to the Blue Jays in the trade that brought over Lawrie – the A’s may not lose much at all defensively when Lawrie is in the lineup.
“He’s good to his right and to his left,” shortstop Marcus Semien said. “He can jump, he’s got good instincts. It’s good to play next to a guy like that.”
Lawrie also ignited the offense in the first. After two-out singles from Ben Zobrist and Billy Butler, Lawrie hit a 1-2 pitch from Raisel Iglesias for a towering three-run homer to left.
He opened the spring with a 2-for-20 stretch but doubled twice Tuesday against San Diego. In his final at-bat Saturday, Lawrie stung a liner right at Frazier, the Reds third baseman.
“That’s what spring training is all about,” Lawrie said. “Spring training is all about feeling good and getting your feet underneath you. It’s about getting prepared for 162, not necessarily about getting three hits. It’s about getting the proper work in and getting our feet underneath us.”