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Brett Lawrie officially returns to Brewers, but won’t participate in spring training

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The former first-round pick officially rejoins the organization, but will spend the entire spring getting into game shape

Chicago White Sox v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

It’s hard for a minor league signing to raise many eyebrows, but that’s what happened a few weeks ago when former Brewers prospect Brett Lawrie said the organization that drafted him would be giving him a chance at a comeback.

Today, the Brewers made that signing official, and announced Lawrie would be reporting to minor league camp.

When Lawrie’s return was initially reported, we learned that while the minor league deal included a team option for a second year, it did not include an invitation to major league camp, which is why we haven’t seen him in Arizona to this point.

The team confirmed that today, going as far to say that we won’t even see Lawrie as a spare body on loan from minor league camp on days the team might need someone to finish out a game — or even do as much as take grounders in minor league camp.

After two years away from the game, Lawrie isn’t into baseball shape yet, and the organization wants him to focus on that during the next six weeks.

Speaking to reporters today, GM David Stearns said it’s about “putting [Lawrie’s] body in the best position to succeed going forward:”

“We’ve got time. There’s no rush here. This a player who hasn’t played in the Major Leagues for two years, and he recognizes there’s a significant amount of work to be done before he can even get back on the field and progress in baseball activities.

“I think all sides are eager to take on this challenge. It’s really a no-lose situation for everyone involved and allows us to make use of our resources here in the ways we’ve envisioned.”

Stearns says the focus is making sure everyone on the team’s strength and conditioning staff and Lawrie himself are on the same page on what’s going on with Lawrie’s body and where he’s at physically — something that was in issue with the Chicago White Sox and ultimately led to his release and time away from the game.

As noted, Stearns emphasized that Lawrie is not currently hurt, but they want to understand why he missed the time that he did and why the White Sox training staff was unable to diagnose and treat the source of those problems two years ago. It also appears the newly renovated spring training facility, which has already been called by players as the best in baseball, is the reason why the Brewers feel like they can take this chance.

”I don’t believe we would have been able to take on something like this prior to having this facility,” Stearns said near the end of the video clip above.

It’s unlikely the Brewers would have signed Lawrie if he was sitting around doing nothing over the past two years, but there’s a difference between being in “gym shape” and being in “game shape.” It’s not like Lawrie ballooned up to 250 pounds, but considering his legs are what failed him two years ago, the Brewers want to make sure they use everything at their disposal to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If Lawrie does spend the entirety of minor league camp (where pitchers and catchers don’t report until March 2nd and position players until March 8th) just focusing on physical training, a stint in extended spring training once the season gets underway likely isn’t out of the question. Stearns declined to put a timeline on when Lawrie would be back in game action, but at this point it doesn’t seem to be a big concern if he’s not ready by the start of the minor league season.

For what it’s worth, Lawrie doesn’t seem to have lost any of the intensity he was known for before his time away:

It doesn’t look like Stearns is worried about motivation being a factor in the comeback attempt, either:

It appears the road to Lawrie’s return may be a little longer than some may have originally thought, but the comeback effort was always going to be more complicated than just getting him into a batting cage. At the very least, both the team and Lawrie seem committed to putting everything into this to make sure there aren’t any what-ifs if it doesn’t work out in the end.