Casey Lawrence found out about his homecoming 18 hours before the first pitch.
The right-hander was with Class A Dunedin in Brevard County, Fla., when his phone rang around midnight.
The Blue Jays needed Lawrence to join Double-A New Hampshire for the second half of a doubleheader Saturday. The Fisher Cats happened to be in Reading.
Lawrence, an Albright College graduate, pitched five strong innings and helped New Hampshire defeat Reading 3-1 in 10 innings to salvage a split at FirstEnergy Stadium.
"It was fulfilling, I guess you could say," Lawrence said. "It was something I always put on the map when I started playing professionally - to get to this level and pitch here back at home."
The Fightin Phils won the opener of the day-night twinbill 4-2.
Lawrence showed no signs of fatigue despite a rough day of travel.
The 6-2, 170-pounder woke up at 5 a.m., flew from Melbourne, Fla., to Charlotte, N.C., for a layover before touching down in Philadelphia at about 1. He reached the ballpark 90 minutes later.
Despite the short notice, the Delone Catholic alum had about 30 supporters in attendance.
"I had a little extra adrenaline going," Lawrence said. "I had a lot of family and friends and coaches here. It gave me an extra boost."
Kelly Dugan's home run in the second inning was the only blemish for Lawrence, who allowed one run on five hits.
New Hampshire pulled out the nightcap long after he
Lawrence provided support for a tired staff. The Fisher Cats were scrambling for pitching due to having the extra game on the schedule.
"For Casey to go those five innings was big," manager Gary Allenson said. "There weren't any first-game jitters here, that's for sure. He did a great job."
The Fightin Phils took the opener when they scored twice in the sixth to snap a 2-2 tie. Maikel Franco, playing first base for the first time, belted his 13th home run in 60 Eastern League games. Zach Collier's RBI single put Reading in front 3-2.
Lawrence has carved out a pro career despite being undrafted out of a Division III school. Albright's all-time leader in strikeouts is near the end of his fourth season. He's 34-25 with a 3.52 ERA in 87 games.
Most of his time has been spent at Class A advanced or lower, so this was an opportunity to open some eyes.
"Every time I go out there I want to prove somebody wrong who doesn't believe I should be at this level, no matter where it is," Lawrence said.
Lawrence and Allenson said they don't know how long the pitcher will be with New Hampshire.
If it was just one start, he made it a good one.
Contact Jason Guarente: 610-371-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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