Photo courtesy of Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer of Portland Press Herald
The Red Sox bullpen has been heavily criticized all season. They've performed well and struggled at points, but general manager Dave Dombrowski felt strongly enough about the current group to not acquire an arm at the deadline.
As the deadline has passed, the move continues to raise questions, especially as the bullpen struggles. Matt Barnes has surrendered eight runs and 12 hits in his last nine appearances, Heath Hembree boasts an ERA above 5.00 since the all-star break and even Craig Kimbrel is struggling to throw strikes.
The recent struggles might force Dombrowski and co. to go out and search for another bullpen arm, but the answer might be sitting in Pawtucket.
Travis Lakins, a 24-year old 2015 sixth-round draft selection by the Red Sox, could be apart of the September call-ups to help strengthen the bullpen for the stretch run. Lakins' pitching arsenal consists of a fastball that tops out at 98 mph, a 90 mph cutter and a promising swing and miss curveball.
Lakins was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on July 31st, after dominating Double-A as a reliever. Since Boston sent the righty to the bullpen, Lakins has surrendered just two earned runs while striking out 22 batters in 21 innings.
"Being in the bullpen takes the pressure off having to throw the curveball and the changeup for strikes as often," said Red Sox vice president of pitching development Brian Bannister. "He can be much more aggressive and go after hitters. So not only has the velo ticked up, the slider shape has improved. It's a lot harder and shorter now with late depth. He'll mix the curveball and changeup in occasionally now. But he doesn't have to rely on a four-pitch mix like he did as a starter."
Since arriving to Pawtucket, Lakins has continued his strong play. In eight appearances, he boasts a 2.08 ERA with 14 strikeouts, all in 13 innings of work.
Lakins is no sure thing to succeed in the majors and has never even appeared in an MLB game. Perhaps Dombrowski would rather trade for a seasoned veteran through revocable waivers, but due to the recent bullpen struggles, something must be done.
The 24-year old is making quite the case to be apart of the September call-ups, and perhaps even being an important piece of the Red Sox pennant run.