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Travis Lakins Heads In Right Direction After Changes

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At Ohio State, righthander Travis Lakins featured an intriguing four-pitch mix. But at high Class A Salem last year he emphasized his fastball, curveball and changeup at the behest of the Red Sox.

The 2015 sixth-rounder seldom used his trademark pitch: a slider-cutter hybrid.

Lakins struggled to a 5.93 ERA in 2016 before a stress fracture in his elbow ended his season at the end of July. Though he didn’t require surgery, and the Red Sox and Lakins express confidence that it won’t be a recurring issue, he spent three months not throwing.

Now once again healthy, the 22-year-old Lakins has made three changes that have resulted in a strong start at Salem this season.

First, he moved from the first-base side of the rubber to the third-base side, a spot from which he’s proven better able to command his 94 mph fastball that tops out at 97 with natural cutting action.

Secondly, he tightened his mechanics to improve his strike-throwing ability.

Finally, he reincorporated a fourth pitch: the aforementioned slider-cutter with late tilt. Salem pitching coach Paul Abbott called the pitch "a big-time weapon for him.”

The 6-foot-1 Lakins looked sharp in April by going 4-0, 3.08 in five starts while striking out 32 with eight walks in 26.2 innings.

While Lakins still is working to harness the consistency of his pitch mix, he has a mid-rotation starter’s ceiling if he generates enough swings and misses with his broad array of pitches.

"He’s got a plus changeup,” Abbott said. "He’s had a hard time harnessing it, and he’s kind of struggled a little bit with it, but when that thing gets going, that slider is so big-time now that the changeup really gives him a four-pitch, upper-level mix,.

"He’s still developing . . . But if he gets a handle on that better, his ceiling is limitless.”

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Travis Lakins Thrives In New Relief Role

An elbow injury derailed Lakins in 2016 and 2017, but a move to the bullpen in 2018 helped his stuff play up in the upper minors.

— Alex Speier covers the Red Sox for the Boston Globe

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