ALTOONA, PA – Jared Lakind pitched 2.1 innings on Tuesday night, extending his scoreless inning streak to 23.2 IP. Lakind has been the definition of consistency for Altoona, as he recording seven straight outs for the Curve — four ground balls, two strikeouts, and a lone easy hit fly ball.
Lakind is now only 1/3 inning away from tying the Altoona Curve single season record for scoreless innings pitched, a record set by Derek Hankins in 2010 with 24 straight scoreless innings pitched. Zack Dodson holds the record for total scoreless innings pitched by not allowing a run over 27 innings extended between 2014 and the beginning of 2015.
Lakind made the aggressive jump to Double-A this season from West Virginia last season, mostly because of his age and the fact that he is in his final contract year. The Pirates probably wanted to see what they had with the left-handed converted first baseman, and the results have been fantastic. Lakind struggled to begin the season as he got acclimated to the higher level — 4.63 ERA in his first eight appearances — but the whole pitching staff in Altoona struggled in April, and Lakind wasn’t unlike the others.
Since May 1st, Lakind hasn’t allowed a run, and has a .104 BAA.
Pitching Coach Justin Meccage says that Lakind “isn’t scared of anybody out on the mound”, and has learned to attack hitters, especially lefties who really struggle against him. Fortunately for the Curve and Pirates alike, neither lefties or righties have been able to hit Lakind.
“He’s aggressive with the fastball,” Meccage said. “It’s one of those fastballs that has a little sneakiness to it, so he gets away with some things. His slider is really good, and he throws it anytime. He’s mentally tough, and that’s the biggest thing for him.”
Lakind added velocity to his fastball over this past off-season, going from 88-91 MPH last year to 90-93 MPH this season. He has also worked on his pitching sequencing, which he attributes to thinking like a hitter, as he was when he was drafted as a first baseman.
“It’s been a long couple off seasons with working and learning how to pitch,” Lakind said. “I’ve learned from being a hitter and reversed the roles, then I began attacking the way I was being attacked. I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest transition, but it’s coming a little easier now after working for a couple of years.”
Lakind only pitched during his senior year of high school, and he said that he really didn’t know how to “pitch”; rather, he “just threw” the ball from the mound. He was drafted by the Pirates as a first baseman, but they quickly transitioned him to the mound after batting .169 with a .445 OPS for the State College Spikes in 2012.
“Going from high school to professional ball, the game speeds up a lot,” Lakind said, “and I didn’t really know how to slow it down. I began tinkering with different things, and I got away from the things that got me to being a professional hitter.”
After moving to the mound, Lakind didn’t see much success until last year with West Virginia, and he constantly fought injuries during the transition. After showing signs of great improvement last season, the Pirates felt he could make the jump to Altoona.
“He came in on a mission,” Meccage said. “This off-season, he worked extremely hard, and he’s carried that over into the season. You’re seeing a guy that’s on a mission to do some special things.”
Lakind definitely shows that confidence and a little “swagger” on the mound. I personally thought this quote from him was the best one of the day:
“I’m just not getting away from what I’m good at and attacking the zone. I’m being a bulldog on the mound, and I’m not giving in.”
Lakind will most likely have the opportunity to capture the Curve single season scoreless innings pitched record some time this week.
On a more humorous note, Joey Cora, who was a cheerful mood after a big Curve win on Tuesday, laughed when he was asked about Lakind’s move from being a hitter to the mound.
“The reason he’s a pitcher is because he wasn’t a very good position player. He said he could hit, and I said obviously he couldn’t because you’re a pitcher now.”
I guess if you can’t beat them, join them, right?
Dovydas Neverauskas Promoted to Indy
It was learned after the game that 23-year-old Lithuanian right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas will be promoted to Indianapolis on Tuesday, as the ripple effects of Jameson Taillon’s promotion take place. Cora gave some insight after the game, saying that Neverauskas was “promoted” and not just filling in, presumably saying that he was deserving of the call-up and not just taking a spot for now.
Neverauskas has only allowed one earned run and three hits in 20 innings since April 25th. He is seen an increase in velocity, with the fastball sitting between 95-98 MPH. He also throws two different kinds of sliders — one that looks like a cutter and the other that is a down-breaking slider. Pitching Coach Justin Meccage gave his thoughts on Neverauskas.
“He has been dominant, and he’s just gaining confidence. The two breaking balls as opposed to just one and everything being hard has been great for him.”
The down-breaking slider is sitting around 88 MPH, while his cutter/slider is around 92-93 MPH.
“He’s in a really good spot right now,” Meccage said. “He’s got a good fastball and good composure on the mound. He knows how to compete.”
Cora, with that humorous touch again, said that Neverauskas is there to stay “unless he sucks big time there”.