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From PawSox to BoSox, Travis Lakins Knows What it Takes to Succeed

Travis Lakins, Photo Credit: Louriann Mardo-Zayat

The PawSox take on Syracuse Friday, May 31st at 6:00pm ET on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.

For Travis Lakins, this past Sunday marked an important one-year anniversary.

On May 26, 2018, Lakins drew the starting pitching nod for Double-A Portland and allowed four runs over three innings. At that point, Lakins had made 14 starts for the Sea Dogs spanning two seasons and pitched into the seventh inning only once. Over that stretch, he was 0-6 with a 5.70 earned-run-average.

The aforementioned outing in a Portland uniform marked his final foray as a starter in the Red Sox farm system. A move to the bullpen would soon follow for Lakins, who was initially selected in the sixth round of the 2-15 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

It’s a conversion that’s paved the way for the 24-year-old Lakins to flip the narrative on his career and rocket through the minors, emerging as a key depth piece. Between the rest of his time in Portland and later Pawtucket, Lakins in 2018 appeared in 30 games as a reliever and allowed an earned run in just four of them. He posted a microscopic 1.21 ERA (five earned runs in 37.1 innings).

It was an effective stretch that paved the way for the Red Sox to place Lakins on the 40-man roster this past offseason and opened the door for the possibility the Ohio State product might make his MLB debut at some point this season. On April 23, Lakins was added to Boston’s active roster and made his big-league debut that same day, tossing 2.2 innings against Detroit while allowing one run and striking out two.

“He comes right after you and understands what it takes to succeed,” said PawSox first baseman Josh Ockimey. Ockimey has been a Red Sox minor-league teammate of Lakins in four of the pitcher’s five pro seasons spent in the Boston system.

Before his recent call-up to Boston on May 23, Lakins collected two saves in back-to-back appearances with Pawtucket. It was after the second save when I caught up with the right-hander to discuss life as a relief pitcher. Here’s what he had to say:

Brendan McGair: If you can pinpoint one item that’s allowed you to fit in seamlessly as a reliever, what would it be?

Travis Lakins: It not really about opportunities. When they call my name and it’s my inning to pitch, I’m going to be ready. It doesn’t matter what inning I throw. I feel comfortable in any inning.

BM: You closed a few games during your freshman year at Ohio State. Is getting the ball with the game on the line made a bigger deal than it should be?

TL: For anyone who’s closing, the adrenaline is going to be there. It’s a one-run situation and you’re trying to get the game over with. Your mentality stays the same. You just have to control your adrenaline, which is tough to do at times.

BM: In one of your save chances with the PawSox, you were faced with bases loaded and one out, but got two flyball outs to end the game. In another save opportunity, you issued a one-out walk but got a game-ending double-play ball. In those situations, do you remind yourself that it’s imperative to pitch to contact and trust that the defense behind you will make the play?

TL: That’s a big thing I’ve been working on. I want to strike every hitter out. Every pitcher does. My adrenaline gets a little high for me and sometimes it’s hard for me to control it, thus I get a little erratic. I’ve told myself that I’ve got to calm down, know that I’ve been here a lot, and continue to do the things that have allowed me to be successful.

BM: In Jenrry Mejia, how helpful has it been to have someone in the PawSox bullpen with major-league closing experience? [Note: Mejia saved 28 games for the New York Mets in 2014.]

TL: It’s been an awesome experience to learn from someone who’s been there. How he handles himself as a closer … he has a strict routine that he follows, no matter if it’s the eighth or the ninth. You learn by watching other guys. That’s definitely a big part of this game.

The PawSox take on Syracuse Friday, May 31st at 6:00pm ET on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.