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The Globe and Mail

Jays eye callup for Canadian prospect Lawrie

Infielder Brett Lawrie #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays sets for play against the Detroit Tigers February 26, 2011 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

A couple of weeks ago, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos was saying that Canadian third base prospect Brett Lawrie was close to being summoned from Triple-A to the big league roster.

Judging from the GM's comments earlier on Tuesday, the 21-year-old is really, really close to joining the Blue Jays.

"I was hoping that he was going to force our hand and he's starting to," Anthopoulos said while sitting in the Toronto dugout a couple hours before the Blue Jays were to take on the Cleveland Indians. "So he's very much in the conversation right now, it's become more prominent."

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In his first full season playing for the club's top Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, Lawrie continues to hit up a storm, his average heading into play on Tuesday a hefty .354 with 15 home runs, 19 doubles and 49 runs batted in over 51 games.

The Langley, B.C., native sports an on-base percentage of .413 and an on-base plus slugging mark of 1.090.

And his defensive play at third base has improved considerably since the start of the season according to the GM, a position that this year has not exactly been productive for the Blue Jays.

Lawrie caught the big league club's attention early after he hit .361 in April at Las Vegas.

Anthopoulos said that was a great start but the club wanted to see their top prospect improve his plate discipline. Lawrie struck out 23 times in April but only had four walks in 22 games.

With that goal in mind, Lawrie has breezed through the month of May with a .349 batting average with 17 strikeouts and 14 walks through 29 games.

"So we're getting to the point where he's doing everything that we've asked," Anthopoulos said. "Obviously he continues to play well and obviously we're hoping his opportunity is going to come sooner than later."

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There had been indications from club sources that Lawrie's callk-up could come as early as Friday. However, Lawrie was hit by a pitch on the left hand in the first inning of Tuesday night's game against pitcher Anthony Bass of the San Diego Padres Triple-A Tucson affiliate and was taken out of the game for x-rays.

In another development, the Blue Jays have been excited by the continued improvement in the arm strength of pitcher Dustin McGowan, who has been inactive for the better part of three years with injuries.

McGowan has been throwing for an inning at a time at extended spring training in Dunedin, Fla., and Blue Jays and manager John Farrell said his velocity is peaking at 95 miles-an-hour.

"Very encouraging," is how Farrell described it. "When you consider the work that's been done in the shoulder, all the work that's been done elsewhere is well documented. He's making very good strides."

The Blue Jays said during spring training that McGowan's role with the team if his arm ever gets healthy would be as a reliever.

Now, with the progress McGowan has shown, the Blue Jays have not ruled out his possible return as a starter.

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"He wants to start," Farrell said. "Personally that would be his preference."

The next step in McGowan's rehab is to start throwing two innings at a time to continue to increase his arm strength and see how he handles the additional wear and tear.

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