SPORTS

Blue Jays accept Lawrie ban, demote Lind, and make history with Brazil-born Gomes

05/17/2012 01:28 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays bit the bullet on Thursday, accepting Brett Lawrie's suspension and sending underperforming first baseman Adam Lind to the minors.

Yan Gomes benefited from both moves, moving up from triple-A Las Vegas. The versatile infielder-catcher was given the start at third base against the Yankees on Thursday, making him the first Brazilian-born player to see major league action.

"It's an absolute honour," a wide-eyed Gomes said before the game.

One day after requesting an appeal of his suspension, a move which allowed him to keep playing pending a hearing set for next Tuesday, Lawrie changed his mind.

The 22-year-old from Langley, B.C., had initially said he wanted to appeal his suspension for bouncing a helmet into home plate umpire Bill Miller so he could explain his side of the story.

Miller ejected Lawrie in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss to Tampa on Tuesday for arguing called strikes. That's when an irate Lawrie threw his helmet into the ground, only to see it bounce up and smack Miller on the hip.

"I just think that it's easier just to put this behind me ... I feel they understand that I didn't mean to hit him on purpose. I think the message is already through," Lawrie said Thursday before serving the first game of his suspension.

"Plus getting it (the ban) reduced was a coin flip," he added.

While Lawrie apologized to Miller prior to Wednesday's game, he was hardly contrite about the umpire's strike calling.

Asked if Miller had apologized for the second and third strike that led to the altercation, Lawrie replied: "No he did not. That remains to be seen."

Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said everyone just wanted the issue settled.

"It just seemed like the best thing to do at this time and Brett certainly agreed," he told a conference call.

Gomes (pronounced Gomes rather than Gomez) hit .359 with five homers in 33 games for Las Vegas this season with five homers.

"He's a hard-nosed player," said Jays manager John Farrell. "I'd say he's kind of a blue-collar type of guy that has never had anything given to him. His ascent to the major leagues has been clearly earned on his part."

The story behind his taking up baseball in Brazil was his father ran into a Cuban baseball coach one day while en route to buy groceries. He was convinced to bring Yan, then five or six, out to try the game.

"Probably the best thing that he did," said Gomes.

The Brazilian, the Jays' 10th-round draft pick in 2009, originally comes from Sao Paulo but went to high school in Miami and attended the University of Tennessee and Barry University.

A catcher since sophomore year in high school— he followed current Jay J.P. Arencibia to Tennessee — he has widened his horizons in the Jays farm system because of the presence of catchers Arencibia and Travis d'Arnaud.

He has played nine games at first base, 10 at third and 12 at catcher this season for triple-A Las Vegas.

"Too early to say (what position Gomes might end up at) but versatility is an asset of his," said Farrell. "He was impressive in spring training behind the plate. ... He was one of the brighter stories in spring training for us."

Gomes was out early Thursday, fielding grounders at third base before batting practice. He got news of his call-up Wednesday, calling it "an emotional roller-coaster" ever since.

He took the red-eye to Toronto and said he was too excited to sleep. Not that he was complaining.

"It's a great feeling, absolutely a great feeling," he said before the game.

Playing the Yankees was a bonus.

"Growing up in Brazil, the Yankees are one of the only teams you know about. So this is kind of a crazy dream right now. Can't wake up right now."

Thursday's game was his first on artificial turf since a college game in Louisville.

While raised in Brazil, Gomes moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 12. Now 24, he has been back to Brazil only twice since but says he has kept in contact with friends.

Going the other way was Lind, who had hit just. 186 in 34 games this season. At US$5.15 million, the first baseman is fourth on the Jays' salary list behind Jose Bautista ($14 million), Kelly Johnson ($6.375 million) and Ricky Romero ($5.25 million).

Lind's $18-million, four-year deal runs through 2013 with club options that could take him through the 2016 season and push the deal to $38.5 million.

Anthopoulos said the 28-year-old Lind's swing was fine from a mechanical standpoint, and that his problems with timing are mental.

"I can tell you Adam cares as much as anybody," said Anthopoulos. "It was wearing on him. I think you can see it with his play on the field, his body language. I know he hasn't slept well.

"It doesn't always necessarily take a player snapping a bat over his knee or beating a watercooler to show that he's upset ... it's weighed on him quite a bit."

Asked where the Lind of 2009 (when he hit. 305 with 35 homers and 1114 RBI) had gone, Farrell paused before saying: "That's what we're searching for."

"I don't think it was just a one-year stat line on a baseball card," he added. "He's a talented hitter. And yet we've got to get him in a place where we can address some of those things without the urgency to win today.

"There's no timeline on this either, I will say. The timeline will be directly attached to Adam Lind and when he's ready to come back and be the type of hitter he is very capable of being."

Edwin Encarnacion played first base Thursday, as he did the night before. Ben Francisco replaced Lind at DH.

"(Lind) understood," Anthopoulos said of the move. "I think one of the things he said was, 'I know I have to perform better. I know I have to play better.'"

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With files from Canadian Press reporter Tyler Harper

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