PHOENIX (AP) — Almost two years after he was released during spring training, Brett Lawrie is getting a second chance to play baseball again.
He faces a long road back to the majors.
Lawrie finalized a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, returning to the organization that took him in the first round of the 2008 draft. But it’s going to be a while before he takes the field with any team in their system.
The Brewers are planning to go very slowly with Lawrie, who hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since July 21, 2016, with the Chicago White Sox. General manager David Stearns said the infielder is going to spend the next six weeks “putting his body in the best position to succeed moving forward,” and then progress to baseball activities.
“It’s a long period, but we’ve got time,” Stearns said. “There’s no rush here. This is a player who hasn’t played in the major leagues for two years, and he recognizes that there’s a significant amount of work to be done before he can get back on the field.”
The 29-year-old Lawrie underwent what Stearns called “a very comprehensive performance evaluation” before the contract was announced. Stearns said Lawrie is healthy, but they wanted to understand what was going on with his body from a physical perspective.
“He has had a number of lower-body injuries, and before we put him back out on the field, we want to understand why,” Stearns said. “And we want to do our best to give him a comprehensive plan for, ‘This is how we believe we can get you back on the field consistently and as a productive player.’”
He is a .261 career hitter with 71 homers and 253 RBIs in 588 games over six seasons with Toronto, Oakland and Chicago. He had his best year in 2015 with the Athletics, batting .260 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs in 149 games after he came over in the trade that moved Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays.
“The ultimate opportunity for me. I’ve been away for about two years,” Lawrie said on a conference call. “I couldn’t be more thankful to have this opportunity from the first team that drafted me.”
The excitable Lawrie wasn’t exactly known for his professional temperament during his first stint in the majors, but he said he has changed over the years.
“I’m getting older and you can’t teach experience. I have a lot of patience,” he said. “I think the plan we have in place is to make me the ultimate me. Try to bullet-proof me so once I get back on the field with baseball activity, I go out there and stay out there. That’s the goal.”
Lawrie was cut by the White Sox on March 3, 2017. He said his agent was contacted by some teams while he was out of the game, but nothing ever materialized.
Lawrie spent time with his family in the meantime. He moved to Seattle last year with his wife, and they welcomed a baby boy. He has a sister who lives in Everett, Washington, about 25 minutes away.
But he never lost his itch to play.
“I didn’t get released because I was a bad baseball player,” he said. “I got released because of other issues that nobody could put their finger on. That was fine with me because I always knew baseball would be there for me. Fortunately, for me, the right opportunity has come forward. I couldn’t be more excited to be back with the first team that believed in me.”