Maturity helped Lambo get to Pirates

The box score won’t tell you about a player’s maturity level, or his commitment to the game.

Prior to this year, those were the biggest factors preventing Andrew Lambo from reaching what many scouts inside and outside the Pirates organization always believed to be enormous potential.

Lambo, who starred for the Curve earlier this year, made his major league debut Tuesday night for the Pirates in St. Louis. He had been stuck in Double-A for parts of six seasons – four in Altoona – and it took a lot of growing up and overcoming adversity for the light switch to finally flip on for him.

“The biggest difference was his overall commitment to his career,” Pirates farm director Larry Broadway said in the clubhouse after the Curve’s 5-2 loss to Portland at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“He went home this offseason and when he came back, [his commitment] showed up physically. His body was way better; he committed in the offseason. But the biggest thing was his internal commitment to get something done this year.”

Lambo, who hit 14 of his minor league leading 31 homers for the Curve this season, had been a major topic of discussion among Pirates fans prior to getting called up to the majors Tuesday. Where did the power come from? Why did it take this long for him to finally figure things out in his career?

“Lambo is a guy who was bouncing around for a long time in this league,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said.

Despite his extensive Double-A experience, Lambo just turned 25 on Sunday. He is a poster boy for a young, loud, cocky, hotshot prospect getting to the high minors in a hurry, failing to live up to expectations and then having to dig down deep inside to resurrect his career.

“A ton of man hours were poured into him from all the staffs that have worked with him and did a great job not giving up on him, continuing to encourage him, continuing to kind of grow him up,” Broadway said. “And then he took it upon himself.

“I think he got to a point this offseason where he knew he was getting older and you look at yourself at home and say, ‘Well, maybe it’s time.’ He did that, and to his credit he came in in the best shape he’s ever been in and took some things seriously and matured a ton. I’m proud of the kid.”

Garcia had heard stories here and there about Lambo’s lack of maturity, but the manager didn’t want to form an opinion of the outfielder until he got to know him this season.

“I just wanted to be around the guy and make sure we have an understanding of what the expectation was,” Garcia said.

Lambo surpassed all expectations statistically as he tore it up for the Curve. He also showed Garcia he has what it takes mentally to succeed.

“He just played his butt off, tried to help the guys, and that was a guy who was more mature than what I expected,” Garcia said.

Lambo is the first member of this year’s Curve team to reach the major leagues, and if nothing else, seeing a guy who spent six years in Double-A should serve as a reminder to all of his former teammates that success doesn’t always come easy.

“Getting to play with him this year and seeing how hot he got and seeing how far he’s gotten already, it’s good to watch,” Curve outfielder Alex Dickerson said. “It shows that the process works, you do your job, you get to move to the big leagues.

“He’s just a great player, and he deserves to play up there. It’s good to see.”

Lambo went 0-for-3 in his major league debut, starting in right field and batting seventh for the Pirates.

There was a time not too long ago when Lambo was basically overlooked by the Bucs, which is why he was back in Double-A this year to begin with. But he grew up when he had to, hit the ball like he needed to, and now he’s finally in the majors.

“To get to where he is now from where he was a year, year and a half ago is fun to watch,” Broadway said.

SUBHD: Game recap

Key player: Portland 1B Travis Shaw went 4-for-4 with an RBI and a run.

Key play: The Sea Dogs scored three runs in the third inning off Curve RHP Casey Sadler.

Key stat: Sadler came in with the fifth-best ERA in the Eastern League but allowed five runs in four innings.

SUBHD: How they scored

Top 1st: Wilkerson doubled, scored on Cecchini sacrifice fly (0-1).

Top 2nd: Shaw doubled, scored on Dent single (0-2).

Top 3rd: Cecchini singled, scored on Vazquez sacrifice fly (0-3); Linares hit by pitch, scored on Shaw single (0-4); Almanzar hit by pitch, scored on Dent single (0-5).

Bottom 6th: Polanco tripled, scored on Howard groundout (1-5).

Bottom 9th: Cunningham singled, scored on Tejeda single (2-5).