GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s another season and another team — and an old position — for Canadian Brett Lawrie.
The one-time top prospect with Toronto, now 26, is hoping to restart his career and bring his trademark energy to the South Side of Chicago.
His task, aside from adjusting to full-time duty at second base, is to help ignite a Chicago White Sox team that sometimes seemed lethargic in a fourth-place finish a year ago.
"It’s all positive and everybody likes to have fun, but at the same time when we get between the lines everybody likes to ramp it up. When the bell rings we’re ready to go," Lawrie said at Camelback Ranch this week.
"The personalities are nice but we have some guys who can play. They like to compete," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "That’s the fun part."
"There’s definitely some energy in the clubhouse," centre fielder Adam Eaton said. "It’s only going to help the team."
Ventura likes Lawrie’s energy, but that’s just part of his appeal to the manager.
"He’s a solid player. He’s a versatile player, a smart player as far as taking the extra base, baserunning, defence," he said.
The White Sox originally were looking for a third baseman when they sent two minor leaguers to the Oakland A’s for Lawrie during the December winter meetings. But a week later, Todd Frazier was acquired from Cincinnati, pushing Lawrie, a native of Langley, B.C., to second.
With the recent addition of veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and Tyler Saladino moving from third to short, the White Sox have completely retooled their infield.
"It’s just getting out there and taking ground balls and just playing beside them all the time," Lawrie said. "The more that you can play with each other you get more comfortable and just getting to know each other as teammates as well.
"Getting the reps and seeing the angle and repeating the double play feeds and keeping it simple, not trying to do anything spectacular."
Lawrie has played 80 games at second base in the major leagues, including 42 last year in Oakland. He was a full-timer at that position in the minors when he was in the Milwaukee Brewers’ system.
"When I’m at third it’s just keep it in front of me, pick it up and throw him out, but you have to do that relatively cleanly because of the long throw," he said. "At second I can keep more things in front of me, and still have some time and not have to rush anything. But there’s a lot of other things — more room (on either side), double plays, covering the bag on steals, things like that."
The focus in camp has been on quality of practice, Lawrie said.
"You give me 10 groundballs and I’m going to do all those 10 at the top of the game with good form and everything. I’m not going to be tired at the end of that. I’m going to get more out of that than if I do 50 groundballs and being tired at the end with bad form."
Lawrie, a native of British Columbia, was sent by Milwaukee to Toronto while still in the minors, in 2010. He played for the Blue Jays until being dealt to Oakland following the 2014 season.
Toronto acquired Josh Donaldson to play third base in that trade, and while the Jays went on to win the AL East in part thanks to Donaldson’s MVP-winning season, the A’s languished and finished with the AL’s worst record, 68-94.
Lawrie hit .260 with a career-high 16 homers for Oakland. Injuries limited him to 70 games with the Jays in 2014, but he managed to hit 12 homers that season.
"I was happy for my (former) teammates but at the same time, you wish you could have done that when you were there," Lawrie said. "That’s how baseball goes. I was happy for them and the run that they had, but now it’s our turn."
Lawrie already knew Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera and catcher Dioner Navarro from their days together in Toronto, but he hasn’t had any trouble fitting in to a new clubhouse.
"Fantastic," Lawrie said of his introduction to the White Sox clubhouse. "The boys have been welcoming."