Blue Jays prospect Brett Lawrie, who was on the verge of taking over as Toronto’s third baseman before suffering a fractured hand May 31, will begin a rehab assignment at Single-A Dunedin tonight.
Lawrie hit .354/.415/.677 with 15 homers and 49 RBI in 52 games for Triple-A Las Vegas before going down, and the common belief was that he was only a couple of days away from getting promoted to the majors.
Unfortunately, Lawrie’s six-week absence has seen circumstances change in a big way. The Jays were trying to get by with Jayson Nix, Edwin Encarnacion and John McDonald at third base before Lawrie got hurt. Now they’ve reinstalled Jose Bautista at his old position, and they have youngsters Travis Snider and Eric Thames playing well in the outfield corners at the moment.
Depending on how he comes back, Lawrie may have to wait until September for his promotion now. He could force his way onto the major league roster if he immeditely resumes hitting like he did during the first two months, but the Blue Jays are content with their corner situation as is. They might even decided to stick Lawrie in an outfield corner, given that he’s struggled so far with the adjustment to third base. Bautista, though he prefers to play the outfield, is the better defender of the two.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.