The customary emotion is joy when the calendar turns to July, a month holding the promise of sunny days at the beach and balmy nights at the ballpark.

So forgive Portland Sea Dogs pitcher Travis Lakins if he greets the seventh month of 2018 with trepidation, if not outright dread.

His first two seasons of professional baseball ended in July because of stress fractures in his right elbow, neither time caused by throwing a pitch. In July of 2016, it was a throw to first base. In July of 2017, it was a throw to third.

Oddly enough, those injuries may have put him in better position to rise through the Red Sox farm system. That’s because his conversion from starter to reliever has been a startling success.

In 14 starts with the Sea Dogs over two seasons, Lakins was 0-6 with a 5.70 earned-run average. This spring, the Red Sox limited him to three innings per start and he was having difficulty making it that far. He was lifted in the third inning of his fourth and fifth starts, and his sixth began thusly: home run, double, wild pitch, walk.

At the end of May, he moved to the bullpen.

“I haven’t been able to make it through a full season, so I knew the transition was coming,” Lakins said Friday afternoon, sipping chocolate milk. “I just didn’t know when it was coming.”

As a relief pitcher, Lakins has been lights out. In 10 appearances, each of one full inning, he has yet to allow an earned run. Opponents are batting .061 with only two hits, both singles. He has 14 strikeouts and five walks. In one stretch, he retired 13 in a row.

“I’m used to this role,” said Lakins, a sixth-round draft pick from Ohio State who had been a starter since turning pro in 2015. “I did it in college my freshman year, so I kind of knew the mindset behind it. It’s a little bit different from a starter’s mentality, but at the end of the day, it’s all 60 feet, 6 inches.”

Lakins celebrated his 24th birthday Friday. He and his wife, Alexis, are expecting their first child in September. If he continues pitching in a similar manner, their daughter may be born at Mass General rather than Maine Medical Center.

“That’s been my goal since I was 4 years old,” Lakins said of making it to the major leagues. “But you can’t think ahead. You’ve got to stay level-headed, you’ve got to stay humble, and you’ve got to keep doing your job where you’re at.”

Growing up in western Ohio, between Dayton and Cincinnati, Lakins was a two-sport star at Franklin High School. On the basketball court, he teamed up with someone two years younger to form a duo that lifted Franklin to the state’s top ranking in consecutive years.

That other guy? Luke Kennard, drafted 12th overall by the Detroit Pistons last June after two years at Duke.

“My best friend,” said Lakins, who is in contact with Kennard on a daily basis.

Although Kennard made an impressive 41.5 percent of his 3-point attempts as a rookie for the Pistons in 2017-18, it was Lakins who won a 3-point shooting contest at a prestigious high school holiday tournament in Myrtle Beach.

So who has a better shot from deep?

“Me, always,” said Lakins, never lacking in confidence. “I could play a little bit.”

Butler and North Carolina State were among the colleges interested in Lakins as a basketball player, but instead he headed to Ohio State to play baseball. Only three years earlier, at the end of his first season in high school, he had announced to his parents at dinner that he was done with baseball.

“They both just sat there in shock,” he said. “But I wanted to pursue basketball. Basketball was my love at that time.”

Lakins entered high school at 5-foot-4 and graduated at 5-10. He weighed perhaps 140 pounds. His idol was Allen Iverson, the slick ball-handling guard of the Philadelphia 76ers. Lakins could shoot. He could dribble. He could defend.

“But at the end of the day,” he said, “I knew a career of baseball was going to be a lot longer than a career of basketball.”

Ohio State penciled him in as a midweek starter, but Lakins sprouted four inches and added 30 pounds of muscle. His fastball velocity jumped from high 80s to mid 90s. The Buckeyes moved him to the bullpen before making him a starter as a sophomore.

The Red Sox offered a $320,000 signing bonus to turn pro and Lakins began climbing the minor-league ladder, getting his feet wet in Lowell before starting both 2016 and 2017 in High-A Salem. He throws four pitches, but lately his success has coincided with the improvement of a cutter – instead of a slider he threw in previous years – to complement his fastball.

“He’s a power pitcher and we wanted to give him something that masked his fastball,” said Sea Dogs pitching coach Paul Abbott. “If we could get something that had power, had velocity and that he could command better, that gives him a solid, two-pitch power mix.”

Lakins also throws a change and a curve, but knowing that he’s only in for an inning puts him in more of an attack mode. Two-plus seasons as a pro have also helped refine his mechanics.

“I can’t pinpoint anything,” he said. “I’m learning every day to be a pitcher and not a thrower. And given the one-inning stint, everything’s going to be a little more crisp.”

“Anytime a guy goes from the rotation to the bullpen,” Abbott said, “he doesn’t have to pace himself. He doesn’t have to hold back with any particular pitch. And the adrenaline rush works a little differently when that phone rings in the bullpen and it’s your name.”

Quality bullpen arms always seem to be in demand. If Lakins can remain healthy throughout July, the last day of which constitutes the major league nonwaiver trade deadline, he may find himself a hot commodity.

After the experience of his past few summers, however, he’ll be happy if he’s still on a pitching mound come August.

“We’re kind of easing him into it, not throwing him into the high-leverage situations right off the bat,” Sea Dogs Manager Darren Fenster said of the conversion.

“But eventually, if he’s going to be a major league reliever, or if he’s going to be a major league starter, he’s got to get used to some different scenarios and not have everything controlled like it is a lot of times.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

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Twitter: GlennJordanPPH