PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- A day after pitching for the Dominican Republic, left-hander Jared Lakind left Pirates camp to join Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.Lakind, assigned to Israel's designated pitcher pool, has watched the team from afar and is thrilled about the underdog club's success and the impact
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- A day after pitching for the Dominican Republic, left-hander Jared Lakind left Pirates camp to join Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.
Lakind, assigned to Israel's designated pitcher pool, has watched the team from afar and is thrilled about the underdog club's success and the impact on baseball in Israel. Asked earlier this week whether he'd join the team if it advanced out of Pool A, Lakind jumped at the opportunity.
"I knew we had a good team that nobody knew about," said Lakind, a non-roster invitee in his first big league camp. "We're hitting on all cylinders right now, it seems like. … It's pretty exciting."
His grandparents, father and oldest sister were in town to watch him pitch Wednesday at LECOM Park. The Texas native got to keep his Dominican Republic jersey and hat, keepsakes for an unusual international appearance during which he faced his Pittsburgh teammates. Lakind's father drove him to the airport on Thursday, his 25th birthday, to begin the 17-hour journey to Tokyo.
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"It means a lot. Just from winning the qualifier, it was putting them on the map," Lakind said. "You could see how grateful they were. We just thought we won a couple games. For them, it meant more funding for baseball. Baseball's not big over there."
New face in the clubhouse
Following the offseason departure of traveling quantitative analyst Mike Fitzgerald, now the D-backs' director of analytics, the Pirates moved Bob Cook into the role of Major League quantitative analyst.
Fitzgerald was something of a trailblazer in his role, believed to be the first analyst embedded in the clubhouse. Cook spent the spring getting comfortable with Pittsburgh's coaching staff, establishing relationships and building trust. But he's already uniquely qualified for the role, educated in analytics and experienced on the field.
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Cook played shortstop and pitched at Amherst College, where he earned a degree in mathematics while hitting .368 and posting a 0.95 ERA in his final season. The 6-foot-2 right-hander played for the Alpine Cowboys in the independent Pecos League before working as a pitching coach in a collegiate summer league then at Amherst.
The Illinois native returned to the mound in 2015, signing with the Frontier League's Joliet Slammers, but tore his ulnar collateral ligament. Cook had Tommy John surgery in December 2015 -- you can see the scar on his right elbow -- but wanted to remain in the game.
If he couldn't pitch, he needed to find another niche -- in this case, an understanding of advanced statistics and programming. So he went back to school and earned a master's degree in analytics from the University of Texas.
Cook got in touch with the Pirates last spring and joined the front office as a pitching analyst. His new role will bring him back into the clubhouse and a step closer to competition, as he'll work more closely with coaches and players on a daily basis.
"He's got a very interesting skill set and experience set for a young man," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He's driven. He went to get his graduate degree in analytics and has a good baseball background, so he's a very good combination of subjective and objective analysis ability. We felt like he was going to be a good fit to help continue to push our advanced analytics and professional analytics forward."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.