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Andrew Lambo returns to Class AAA intent on finally making it to majors

| Monday, June 10, 2013, 10:52 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates prospect Andrew Lambo bats for the Altoona Curve during a game against Harrisburg in April 2013.

Speaking baseballese, Andrew Lambo said that players have to learn to “control the controllables” and disregard the rest.

This was Friday in Altoona where Lambo, a 24-year-old outfielder putting up big numbers for the Curve, was asked (again) about advancing to the final level in the Pirates' minor league system. He has spent all or parts of four seasons at Double-A.

“The only thing you can control is every day you come to the park, you put the jersey on, you play 110 percent,” he said. “You don't worry about anything else except what you have to do to make the team better every day.”

A big left-handed hitter, Lambo then went out and singled in four trips, driving in a pair of runs in a 3-2 loss. Afterward, manager Carlos Garcia announced to the team that Lambo was going to Indianapolis.

“It was pretty cool,” he said Monday.

Lambo hit .291 with 14 home runs and 46 RBI with Altoona. In his second game with the Indians on Sunday, he crushed a 57-mph “eephus” pitch from Chris Robinson, a designated hitter pressed into pitching duties, for a 13th-inning, game-ending homer.

In 2011, Lambo hit .184 in 60 games with Indy.

“I wasn't mentally there,” he said. “I didn't understand what was going on, wasn't playing the game the right way.”

Now he is hoping for a better second time around — a better everything. Until now his career has been a struggle, or “a process,” as he called it.

“I definitely didn't write this up when I first signed,” he said. “But it's been a good growing process and a good learning curve.”

On May 1, 2010, Lambo drew a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a “drug of abuse.” It was suspected to be marijuana because Lambo had been busted for pot as a high school sophomore in California, hurting his draft status. The Dodgers took him in the fourth round in 2007.

Three months after the suspension, the Pirates accepted Lambo as part of the James McDonald trade for reliever Octavio Dotel.

“Absolutely the Pirates took a chance on me,” Lambo said. “But I feel like they knew I was ready to accept the fact that this is my dream, this is my goal to play every day in the big leagues and contribute to a World Series team.”

In 2012, Lambo suffered multiple hand injuries. He played in just 26 games for Altoona and nine in the rookie Gulf Coast League while rehabbing. But he found his brief time in Florida to be a revelation. His manager, Tom Prince, “dug a lot out of me and made me a better baseball player,” he said. “He showed me how to play the game hard. He knows how to humble you.”

During the offseason, Lambo worked on using the entire field. Healthy, focused and more mature, he seems to be reaching his potential.

“He approaches the game the right way,” Altoona hitting coach Ryan Long said. “He appreciates he has a uniform on, and he's playing like it this year.”

Said Garcia, “The kid has become a man.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.

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