If the name Jason Lane rings a bell, that’s because it probably should. The former Houston Astros outfielder will make his first MLB start as a pitcher for the San Diego Padres on Monday. Lane will take the bump against the Miami Marlins more than 10 years removed from hitting a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves in the 2004 NL Division Series.
After getting off to a hot start for the Astros last decade by hitting 27 homers and driving in 78 runs back in 2004, Lane saw his performance drop off big time from the plate. He hit just .201 the following season and was completely out of the Majors by 2007, at which point Lane decided to switch to pitching.
Starting in 2009, the former sixth-round pick out of USC jumped from organization to organization in an attempt to successfully convert to the mound. He would make stops in affiliates for the Toronto Blue Jays, Florida Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks before catching on with the Padres Triple-A affiliate in 2013.
After going 2-2 with a 5.24 ERA last season, Lane started the 2014 campaign as a regular starter in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League for the Padres Triple-A team in El Paso. He responded by going 6-8 with a 4.67 ERA in 19 starts. Not too shabby, especially if you know just how difficult it is to pitch in that league.
Earlier this year, Lane made his MLB debut as a pitcher against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He struck out three in 3.1 innings of perfect relief. A few days later, Lane put up a scoreless inning against the Washington Nationals before being demoted back to Triple-A.
He’s now preparing to make his first MLB start. And Padres manager Bud Black is pretty excited to see what he has to offer (via MLB.com).
The thing with Jason’s case, he pitched as an amateur a great deal at a major collegiate program,” Black said. “As his career moved on and he was going back to the Minors, [pitching] was something he always had in the back of his mind.
Black was referencing Lane’s success as a two-way player for the USC Trojans baseball team. Back in 1998, Lane notched the win from the bump and hit a grand slam in USC”s World Series-clinching win against Arizona State.
Not too often to do you see position players have success in the Majors after attempting a position change. Oakland Athletics closer Sean Doolittle was originally selected in the first round of the 2007 MLB draft as a first baseman. He went on to hit 22 homers and drive in 91 runs between Single-A and Double-A in 2008. After struggling at the plate following that season, Doolittle made the transition to pitching and the rest is history.
It will be interesting to see if Lane can come close to that type of success. While that’s highly unlikely due to his advanced age (37), this one scribe will be rooting for him.
Photo: UT-San Diego