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Perrotto: Jake Lamb Loses Stardom, Regains Love of Game



Jake Lamb, Pittsburgh Pirates

Jake Lamb was once a rising star in the major leagues.

Lamb batted .248/.357/.487 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ third baseman in 2017. He was also selected to the All-Star Game that year.

Just 26 years old, Lamb’s future seemed very bright.

However, Lamb has never reached that level of play again. His career flamed out in Arizona in 2020. He has since bounced to seven different organizations.

Lamb is in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training camp this year as a non-roster player after being signed as a free agent over the winter. He faces an uphill battle to make the major-league club and will likely start the season with Triple-A Indianapolis.

It would be easy to expect Lamb to be bitter about the downturn in his career. Yet, quite the contrary, Lamb might be as happy as any player in the Pirates’ clubhouse in Bradenton, Fla.

“The last couple of years while playing games in Triple-A, I’ve actually fallen in love with talking to the young guys, helping them out, talking hitting, talking approach, talking day-to-day routines, how to preserve your body,” Lamb said. “Going to Triple-A, it made me realize how much I know about this game, how much knowledge I have about this game and how I can give back to the younger guys.”

Lamb has played primarily in the minor leagues over the last three years since splitting the pandemic-shortened 2020 season between the Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics. Since then, he has appeared in 115 major-league games combined for the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels.

Lamb got into just 19 games with the Angels last season and hit .216/.259/.353 with two home runs.

When asked how he has fallen from an All-Star to a player just trying to find a regular home in Triple-A, Lamb was refreshingly honest. He didn’t use the usual excuses like getting screwed by management or injuries or bad luck.

Lamb’s answer made it clear he is a great self-evaluator, not always a common trait among professional athletes.

“If I’m being completely honest, going down to Triple-A kind of revived my love of the game,” Lamb said. “Not that I didn’t enjoy the game, but we all start this game and play this game out of the obsession – I know obsession is a strong word – because there is a very, very, very small percentage of guys in this league who can wake up and be the best player on the field and I was never that guy.

“I was the smallest guy on my team growing up. I’m not saying I was overlooked but I wasn’t a top pick,” continued Lamb, who was selected in the sixth round by the Diamondbacks in 2012 from the University of Washington. “That obsession for the game drove me and I guess somewhere along the way I lost it.”

That does not mean that Lamb does not care about baseball. He would love to make the team this spring and hopes the Pirates value a left-handed hitter who can play all four corner positions.

“The Pirates were interested in me right from the beginning in the offseason and that’s always a good thing to be joining a team that has interest and want in your ability. It’s always No. 1,” Lamb said. “It’s a young team obviously but there are some really good players in this (locker) room. I just wanted to come over and do whatever I can to help this team take a step in the right direction and win some ballgames.”

If not, he will accept an assignment to Indianapolis and try to help the Indians try to win games and help prepare his younger teammates to play in the big leagues.

“When you get sent down (to the minor leagues), you can easily go the opposite way and say I’m going to Triple-A for the first time since 2014, so I’m going to be the salty vet who doesn’t talk to the younger guys,” Lamb said. “That’s not me at all. That’s not who I am as a person and as a baseball player.”

Which makes Lamb special. Ultimately, having his kind of character means more than being picked to an All-Star Game.

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