Jason Lane slugged 26 home runs for the Houston Astros in 2005, and was a big reason they reached the World Series for the only time in franchise history. By 2007 after batting .175, Lane appeared to have played in his last big-league game.
Nearly seven years later, at 37 years old, Lane returned to the major leagues Tuesday night as a pitcher. Working for the San Diego Padres, Lane tossed 3 1/3 perfect innings, a bright spot in a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Lane struck out Neil Walker, the first batter he faced, and got nine more outs in a row in his second major league debut.
Holy Reverse Rick Ankiel!
"That was neat," Lane said. "I was surprised. I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be. I was more nervous when I hit in the sixth than I was when I was on the mound.
"I don't think I could have ever expected it to go like that. All I know is that there's been a lot of hard work and ups and downs."
Lane, who hit 61 homers from 2002-2007, began his transformation to pitcher with a handful of mound appearances in 2010 and 2011. The switch began in earnest in 2012 with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters (former NBA star Tracy McGrady pitches for them). The Padres signed Lane in 2013 and he compiled a 4.36 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 64 innings as a starting pitcher with Triple-A El Paso this year.
They needed a fresh arm because of an overworked bullpen and Lane delivered. And that's all Lane has wanted over the years — one more chance to help a major league team win.
"I have a passion for the game, so that part of [the transition] was easy," Lane said. "It was just a matter of getting opportunities and taking advantage of those opportunities, especially with my age, being a little older, getting people to believe in you.
"But from the pitching side, my arm feels pretty young. I don't have the wear and tear, and haven't had any major injuries, and have kept myself in good shape."
Lane has a long way to go before reaching the status of Ankiel, who began in the majors as a fireballing left-hander and later became a great outfielder (and, at times, a decent hitter). And he'll probably never sniff the results Babe Ruth got in his two careers. But the accomplishments of Brooks Kieschnick aren't out of Lane's grasp.
More MLB coverage at Yahoo Sports:
- - - - - - -