Notes: Lawrence responding well
Right-hander working with training staff to find full strength
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Toughness helped put right-hander Brian Lawrence where he is today -- in a Rockies uniform. The Rockies remembered it from the other side, when Lawrence pitched for the Padres from 2001-05, and signed him even though he missed last season because of shoulder surgery.
"He does not accept mediocrity," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "He pushes himself extremely hard. He's a fierce competitor. He's a strike thrower -- he pitches to the bat -- and can battle. He doesn't back down."
That same toughness, however, is partly to blame for why Lawrence is coming back from surgery.
Lawrence admits that he considered the trainer's room off limits. To visit when he wasn't truly in pain was a sign of weakness.
"I relied on the mental aspect of, 'I'm healthy, so I don't have to go into the training room,'" Lawrence said.
It's a mentality that should have faded from sports by now, as athletic trainers have taken on more duties than taping ankles and repairing gloves. Today's trainers have knowledge of techniques and offer exercises and exercise-aid materials that can help players prevent injuries and get the muscles and skeleton moving more efficiently. But Lawrence said he thought the traditional work with light dumbbells and his own stretching would suffice.
It wasn't until last season that he learned the hard way. The Padres had traded him to the Nationals for third baseman Vinny Castilla, but Lawrence's shoulder gave out early in Spring Training. The surgery repaired a torn labrum and cleaned out his rotator cuff.
After a long rehab, the Rockies monitored all of Lawrence's offseason throwing sessions before signing him to a one-year, $750,000 contract with a club option for 2008. As Hurdle noted, the Rockies say "time is an ally," meaning that if he needs time beyond Opening Day to be in game shape then he has it.
But Lawrence said he expects to be ready on Opening Day. He'll use the services of head athletic trainer Keith Dugger and his staff to help make that possible.
"It's there to be used," Lawrence said. "I think some guys do abuse it. But I go in there and let them know I'm not hurt, but I want to maintain the strength and conditioning of my shoulder and elbow that needs to be done. They understand that and they're more than happy to help.
"Pretty much, every pitcher can come in there and do the same thing. It's a program of manual strength -- you do manual resistance with a trainer, then just build muscle strength with the shoulder.
"I love it. I wish I'd have done it five years ago when I first came up. [It's] never too late, I guess."
Lawrence, who turns 31 on May 14, can help the Rockies rotation.
How his arm responds this spring will determine when he can offer the Rockies his services. Lawrence reports that his arm has responded well after early sessions. The next test will come with the intensity of facing hitters, which he'll experience next week against Rockies position players and throwing in Spring Training games.
"Our communication there, and he's well aware, just needs to be very clean -- how he feels, how he thinks he's coming along in the talks that he has with the trainers," Hurdle said.
Making himself at home: Left-hander Tom Martin went 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 33 road appearances last season. He was 0-0 with a 7.28 ERA in 35 games at Coors. Yet, Martin wanted to come back and re-signed for $800,000.
"I think the biggest issue was my head," Martin said. "For some reason, I pitched up in the zone more in Colorado. I didn't make the adjustments to keep the ball down in the zone. If I threw the same stuff that I threw up there last year but it was three or four inches lower, the outcome is completely different."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.