By Bob Elliott
CLEARWATER, FLA. - There have been many descriptions related to Brett Lawrie’s demeanour, make up and style of play.
Former Blue Jays pro scout Tom Clark once wrote in a report that Lawrie “plays like his hair is on fire.”
Someone in the Jays’ clubhouse in Dunedin this spring said Lawrie “makes coffee nervous.”
Jays pro scouting director Perry Minasian told general manager Alex Anthopoulos that Lawrie “played like an animal.”
What does former teammate Phillippe Aumont, trying to make the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, think of Lawrie, his teammate for two years with the Canadian junior national team (2006-07) and with Canada’s 2009 World Baseball Classic entry, on the road together for roughly 140 days.
Lawrie was active with the Jays for only 55 days last season.
So Aumont is almost three times more qualified to speak on Lawrie than say your run-of-the-mill, every day Jays player.
“He’s got a fire you don’t usually see that often in ball players,” Aumont said Monday morning in the Phillies’ clubhouse. “He’s intimidating, his confidence is through the roof.
“They are all qualities you want in a teammate ... as long as he’s a good teammate. And he’s a good teammate. Even if he’s wound a little.”
The 6-foot-7, 255-pound Aumont and the 6-foot, 215-pound Lawrie made four trips to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with the Canadian juniors to play first and second year pros. Plus two trips to the Dominican as high schoolers and they were together internationally at the world juniors in Cuba, the junior qualifier in Mexico in 2006-07 and the WBC.
They were both first rounders: Aumont went 11th over-all in North America to the Seattle Mariners in 2007, signed by Wayne Norton and Bob Engle. Lawrie went 16th over-all to the Milwaukee Brewers signed by Tom McNamara and Marty Lehn.
After almost two years of Minasian’s urging, Anthopoulos continued to call Brewers GM Doug Melvin about Lawrie. Finally Shaun Marcum was dealt for Lawrie at the 2010 winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista.
Aumont, of Gatineau, Que., remains true to his roots. He sat in the dugout with the Canadian juniors for part of their game against the Phillies minor leaguers and also watched as the high schoolers played the Jays last week on ‘Canada Day in March’ in the St. Petersburg International Series.
“I’ll never forget the first time I went to the Baseball Canada fund raising dinner in Toronto when I was 17,” Aumont said. “I was like ‘there’s Justin Morneau! There’s Jeff Francis!’
“I was about to enter their world. Hopefully, some of this year’s kids are on the way too.”
Before the Phillies edged the Detroit Tigers with ex-Jays lefty David Purcey getting the save, Aumont described his spring as “off and on ... mostly off.”
He has pitched an inning each against the New York Yankees, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Tigers and the Jays. Aumont has allowed six hits in four innings and two earned runs, walking four, striking out four.
“I’m trying to be quicker to the plate,” said Aumont, who always pitches out of the stretch, whether there are base runners or not. “I’m not where I want to be when it comes to repeating my delivery.”
Aumont, 23, is coming off what he calls a “bounce-back” year. In 2010 he was at class-A Clearwater and double-A Reading, walking 80 and striking out 115 in 122 innings. He had a 5.68 ERA, including a 7.43 mark at Reading.
Last summer he started at Reading and was promoted to triple-A Lehigh Valley, combining to walk 25 and fan 78 in 53 2/3 innings with a 2.68 ERA.
“I was able to cut down on my walks, my goal was to come into camp with a shot to make the team,” Aumont said. “And that’s the position I put myself in, either to make the team out of spring training or be the first guy called up.”
Stephane Petronzio, Aumont’s former coach with the Gatineau Phoenix, brought his 30 players from Vero Beach where they were playing to see Aumont pitch against the Yanks. Aumont still supports the program where it all started, before pitching for the Academy Baseball Canada in Montreal.
After the game they went to eat at the Chipotle Mexican Grill.
“I sat with Stephane, the coaches and older players,” Aumont said. “Some scattered to Panda Express, other places. It was quick. They had a three-hour ride to Vero.”
It was Aumont who provided the most exciting moment of the 2009 season at Rogers Centre
Not Roy Halladay.
Not Adam Lind.
Not Scott Rolen.
Trailing Team USA 6-4, Aumont allowed a double to Dustin Pedroia, defending American League MVP, an infield single to Jimmy Rollins, a former National League MVP, and walked Chipper Jones to load the bases.
He retired David Wright on a liner, struck out Kevin Youkilis and fanned Curtis Granderson looking, bringing 42,100 fans to their feet. Canada dropped a 6-5 decision to Team USA with Morneau and Jason Bay stranding Joey Votto, the tying run, at second base.
After the called strike three, Aumont looked like a giant whooping crane, turning on one leg and punching the air with his right fist in triumph.
He almost looked as excited as Lawrie.
After beating out an infield single.