“Hey, Jason,” I began the phone interview, “I wanted to know what's going on with your career.”
Jason Lane, the former El Molino High and Santa Rosa JC star, responded honestly.
“When you find out,” Lane said, “let me know.”
Lane finds himself at the intersection of Uncertainty and Anything's Possible. Lane just finished his season with the Sugar Land Skeeters, an independent team near Houston. He was a designated hitter, hitting .270, but Lane is trying to return to the big leagues as a pitcher. He was 9-5 with a 3.17 earned run average, with 77 strikeouts and 18 walks in 110 innings. Those are solid, workmanlike numbers, especially the walks-to-innings ratio, in the Atlantic League, whose talent level Lane rates above Double-A.
But those workmanlike numbers for someone making the transition from hitting to pitching are not the eye-catching statistics Lane would prefer, considering he will turn 36 in December.
“I still feel I got a lot of baseball left in me,” said Lane, who spent all or parts of six big-league seasons with the Houston Astros and hit a homer in the 2005 World Series.
Why keep pushing? After all, his last year in the big leagues was 2007. The easy answer: Left-handed relievers are always in demand. Is that it? Is that why he keeps trying?
“I love the game,” Lane said. “I love the details.”
Lane then gave an example. It was one of those “Wow!” examples.
“An outfielder misses a cutoff man on a single,” Lane said, “and the runner doesn't stop at second. He continues to third. With the runner on third, the pitcher has to pitch more carefully. Maybe he pitches too carefully. He takes an extra 30 pitches to get out of the inning. He gets tired. He doesn't go deep into the game. He has to leave in the fifth inning. Relievers enter early. Two, three of them do. The manager has gone sooner to his bullpen than he would like. In fact, he burns the bullpen up to win the game.