As a 29-year-old rookie seasoned in the Negro National League, Lawrence went 15-6, starting and relieving for the 1954 Cardinals. Hit hard in 1955, he was demoted to Oakland (Pacific Coast League), where he earned a second chance by going 5-1 down the stretch. Acquired by the Reds, he opened 1956 with 13 straight victories, among them two two-hitters. He finished 19-10, then went 16-13 in 1957. He won only eight games in 1958 and seven in 1959, when he threw a third two-hitter.