Among a group of eight players signed to minor league contracts by the Minnesota Twins this past week, left-hander Jason Lane finds himself one step closer to a possible return to the Major Leagues after having not appeared in a game since the 2007 season. The former outfielder and two-time Baseball America Top 100 Prospect (#53 entering 2002, #100 entering 2004) has been trying to reinvent himself as a pitcher since early in the 2011 season.
Drafted in the 6th Round of the 1999 Draft by Houston, Lane wound up spending parts of six seasons in the Major Leagues, mostly with the Astros before a handful of games with the San Diego Padres in 2007 – his last stint in the Majors. Lane batted a combined .241/.314/.457 in 1,363 plate appearances over that span, spending most of his time in the outfield corners. 2005 was a breakout season for Lane, as he hit .267/.316/.499 with 26 HR and 78 RBI over 561 plate appearances, helping the Astros reach the World Series before they’d lose to the Chicago White Sox in four games. He’d hit just .192/.295/.375 in 539 plate appearances over the following two seasons and has since spent time in the minor leagues in the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Marlins, and Diamondbacks systems.
A year ago Lane signed a minor league deal with Arizona prior to the start of Spring Training, only to find himself being released by the end of May. He’d ultimately sign on with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent Atlantic League. Lane would post a 9-5 record and 3.17 ERA in 110.2 innings for the Skeeters, making 17 starts and including one complete game. He’d also hit .275/.345/.463 with 9 HR and 31 RBI in 258 plate appearances, spending some limited time in the outfield on days he wasn’t throwing. He’d be named the team’s MVP at season’s end.
Lane, who’ll turn 36 later this month, did not receive an invitation to Spring Training and still faces an uphill climb if he’s going to return to the Major Leagues before his career comes to a close.