By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa.—Not much was expected of Curve relief pitcher Jared Lakind this season. In fact, he’s not even mentioned in the club’s 2016 media and information guide.
However, he’s been one of the Pittsburgh organization’s most pleasant surprises.
Lakind, originally drafted as a first baseman by the Pirates in 2010, has been so impressive that he was selected to the Eastern League’s mid-season All-Star Classic on July 13 at Akron.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” he said of his first all-star selection, “and it fuels my work ethic for the next stop and, hopefully, the big leagues.”
As of July 1, Lakind sported a 3-0 record and 1.83 ERA (the best on the team) in 39.1 innings. Earlier in the season, he set the Curve single-season record for consecutive scoreless innings when he tossed 25 1/3 from May 1 to June 23.
Curve manager Joey Cora raves about the contributions that Lakind, a 6-1, 197-pound southpaw, has made to the club so far.
“He’s done an extremely outstanding job of improving as a pitcher this season,” Cora noted. “When the season started, he didn’t have much command of his pitches, but he’s got it now. Once he got it, he ran with it.”
The Cypress, TX native was an outstanding outfielder-first baseman-pitcher in high school.
“I was the No. 1 guy, but I never took pitching serious,” Lakind said. “I thought hitting was life.”
But, the Pirates saw his future as a pitcher and he accepted their offer to switch to the mound in 2013.
“On the last day of spring training, they called me in and said they could release me or I could try pitching, so I chose the latter,” he said.
It hasn’t always been a smooth transition, though. He’s been to extended spring training a couple times while learning the trade at short-season Jamestown and low-A West Virginia.
“I finally figured out some things and finished 2015 at West Virginia,” he said.
He went 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 15 games with the Power last year and was so impressive during the 2016 spring training that the Pirates jumped him over high-A Bradenton and sent him to Altoona.
“It was definitely a surprise coming here,” Lakind said, “but my goal was to get here this season – either at the beginning or the end.”
“The Pirates don’t do that much,” Cora said of Lakind’s jump over Bradenton, “but he showed in spring training that he was capable, and he certainly has been. It was a huge jump, but he’s been great.”
Curve pitching coach Justin Meccage said it’s been fun to see Lakind’s progression.
“It’s been awesome,” Meccage said. “He’s gotten better each time out. His pitches have gotten better and so has his mental approach. All of a sudden, he has a pretty good package.
“He started as a position player, but when you have the mental makeup he has, you can accomplish a lot. He’s not afraid of anyone or any situation.”
Not wanting to look back when his baseball days are over, Lakind has been taking college courses on line for a couple of years.
“It takes a lot of my time,” he said, “but I have my associate’s degree in business from the University of Phoenix and I’m working toward my bachelor’s degree. I’m less than a year away.”
He said he misses hitting but still teaches that part of the game when he gives off-season clinics at home. Right now, though, he knows his future is on the mound.
“I’m just taking one pitch, one out and one inning at a time,” he said. ”It took a while to adjust, but I’m applying everything I learn, and I’m not afraid.”
“He’s on his way,” Cora said. “He’s having a great season and has put himself on the map, without a doubt.”