When we think of players making transitions into pitchers, it is usually the other way around. Babe Ruth was a very good pitcher, but became a legendary hitter. Smokey Joe Wood was a better pitcher and finished off his career as a decent outfielder for the Indians. Of course, we know of the story of Rick Ankiel and the similar one of Adam Loewen, with the latter making a comeback as a pitcher once again. While there is an example of a position player becoming a two way player, Brooks Kieschnick (a guest on the Passed Ball Show, check www.johnpielli.com for details) who both pitched and played the field. RHP Micah Owings attempted to play the OF full time in 2013, and actually hit .265 for AAA Syracuse for the Nationals organization. However, he is currently pitching in the Miami Marlins farm system as we speak.
There are several example of position players who were very good pitchers in college. Marquis Grissom and John Olerud are examples with there obviously being many more who had success as a pitcher in high school and/ or college before becoming position players on the professional stage. What Lane has done is against the norm, as converting from a position player to a pitcher is much less common than a pitcher converting to a position player. So what Lane has done does deserve some merit, especially at his age.
The thought of Lane being a pitcher did not come completely out of left field. He was a star two way player at USC and his relief in the College World Series in 1998 led the Trojans to a 21-14 victory over Arizona State for the National Championship. Lane, who throws left handed but bats right handed, is one of only a few MLB players who do that (RIckey Henderson is one that comes to mind). When the Astros took him in the 6th round of the 1999 draft, they had every intention of using him on the field and for his bat. Making his MLB debut in 2002, Lane would become an everyday OF for the Astros, with 2005 being his best season (.267, 26, 78). It was also the season the Astros made their only World Series appearance, where they lost to the White Sox. Lane would play in the NLDS and NLCS for the Astros in 2004 and the NLDS, NLCS and WS for the Astros in 2005 hitting 4 HR including 1 HR in the 2005 World Series.
Lane's 2006 season was disappointing as he hit just .201, 15, 45 in 112 games. The Astros gave him every opportunity and after batting just .175 in 68 games in 2007, his contract was sold to the Padres, whom he batted 2 times for. The fact that he could hit for power in the minors meant he would probably be able to find a job. He played in the minors for the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Marlins, Blue Jays again and Diamondbacks before landing with the Sugarland Skeeters in 2012. He made the transition completely into a pitcher and by 2013, he was a top pitcher in the entire league. He signed a deal with the Padres and started the 2014 season in AAA.
The reason I think Lane will be around for at least another shot is because of the niche he has found. He is now a left handed specialist, a role which has one of the highest demands in the entire sport. There is also no question the Padres will remember him retiring all 10 batters he faced in his first outing, only to give up a single hit in his scoreless inning his next time out. The Padres had 40 man issues, otherwise Lane would have at least stayed on the 40 man roster. While I expect to see Lane up again, I wonder if he gets the same attention that Ankiel got. It is understood that Ankiel had a more dramatic let down, as in front of a National audience, he threw pitch after pitch to the backstop during the 2000 NLCS. He had the better story, but is it a bigger one than Lane making the transition to a pitcher? I don't truly know the answer to that but I hope more take the time to acknowledge what Lane has done.