By Jeff Louderback
Franklin’s Travis Lakins made his Major League debut on Tuesday in the nightcap of a day-night doubleheader at Fenway Park. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed one run and four hits over 2.2 innings with two strikeouts and no walks in Boston’s 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
Lakins relieved fellow rookie Darwinzon Hernandez with one out and runners on the corner in the seventh inning. He stranded both runners, striking out Jeimer Candelario and inducing an inning-ending ground out from Nicholas Castellanos.
“I’ve been playing ball since I was 4 years old and never experienced anything like this,” Lakins told reporters after the game. “Never thought of being in this position. It’s just hard to describe.”
Lakins had little time to prepare for his call-up from Triple-A Pawtucket to Boston. Pawtucket, Rhode Island is an hour away from Fenway Park. Lakins said he received the news after Pawtucket finished batting practice on Tuesday afternoon for its game against Lehigh Valley. He made the drive with his wife, Alexis, and called his dad.
“My dad, I talked to him for about 20 seconds because I don’t think he wanted me to hear him cry,” Lakins said. “So I talked to him, and my mom was just so emotional. So it was just an emotional experience for all of us.”
A three-point marksman at Franklin High School, Lakins was a prep teammate of lifelong friend and current Detroit Pistons standout Luke Kennard when the Wildcats packed gyms everywhere they played. He loved basketball so much that the 6-foot-1, 180-pound right-hander considered giving up baseball to concentrate on preparing himself for college hoops. Lakins opted to keep playing baseball, and now he is in the majors.
After graduating from Franklin in 2013, Lakins pitched at Ohio State University and was selected in the sixth round of the 2015 draft by the Red Sox.
Lakins was a starter in his first two seasons in the Red Sox minor league system, but his numbers did not stand out, and his 2016 and 2017 campaigns ended in July – both times from a stress fracture in his right elbow, and both times while he was throwing to first base holding on a runner.
After extensive rehab and no surgery, he returned last year and was moved to the bullpen, which catapulted his career.
He posted a 0.86 ERA (21 innings, two earned runs) and 0.71 WHIP in 20 relief outings for Double-A Portland. Lakins earned a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket where he recorded a 1.65 ERA (16.1 innings, three earned runs) in 10 relief outings.
In shorter bursts, Lakins can showcase more velocity, and he features five pitches – a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a curveball, a cutter and a circle changeup. The cutter is considered his top pitch as a reliever.
Lakins’ fastball sits around 94-95 miles an hour with the power cutter in the low 90s and a curve in the low to mid 80s.
The Red Sox added Lakins to the 40-man roster in November, and now he has a chance to stick with the major league team. After winning 108 games in the regular season and capturing a World Series title last October, Boston is 9-15 in the young 2019 campaign. The bullpen is a significant reason for the team’s struggles.
Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes and Marcus Walden have been the only dependable relievers for Red Sox manager Alex Cora, so consistently good outings from Lakins will help him stick around.
“He did an outstanding job,” Cora said about Lakins’ major league debut. “We pushed him hard. It’s something we needed. … You saw the fastball up, the cutter, the breaking ball. Slowed the game down, which is good.”