When the Texas Rangers selected outfielder Braxton Lane with their seventh round selection in the 2009 MLB Draft, they were looking to add a premium athlete with premium speed and potential future leadoff skills to the organization.
Also a top football prospect, Lane had signed a dual scholarship to play both football [wide receiver] and baseball at the University of Oregon. But the Rangers were able to sign the Georgia native away from that commitment for a slot-level $125,000 bonus.
After signing, Lane reported to the rookie-level Arizona League Rangers. The switch-hitter struggled at the plate in 22 games, going 12-for-65 [.185] with one triple, three walks and 33 strikeouts before going down with an injury, which Lane explains below.
During his career at Sandy Creek High School, Lane was regarded as a raw hitter that would need some time to figure it out in professional baseball. The 19-year-old has plenty of tools, but he is in the early developmental stages as a hitter, and he'll likely need another full season in the AZL.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Lane after a recent workout to talk about his injury and his progression as a hitter.
Jason Cole: You had an injury that kept you out for part of your AZL season last year. What exactly was it?
Braxton Lane: I had a bone spur in my elbow, and it was right in the joint. So anytime I really extended my arm, there was a pretty sharp pain. I was shut down probably a little bit after halfway through the AZL season. We tried to give it some rest. I went back home for about two weeks, came back for instructs, and the plan was to ease back into everything during instructs. The pain was still there.
I actually got a cortisone shot during the end of the AZL season. That was supposed to help and it didn't really do too much, so we went ahead and decided to have surgery. I flew to Dallas and had the surgery with Dr. Meister. He did a great job, and like I said, they're just kind of easing me back into everything right now. Everything feels good and now I can't wait to start playing.
Cole: When was that surgery?
Lane: I want to say October 1st or the last day of September.
Cole: Did you come out here for instructs after the surgery, or did you just go back home?
Lane: After the surgery, I flew back here and stayed for the end of instructs. I got to go home for about a week and then I was here until about mid-December rehabbing with the trainers out here.
Cole: When I was out here for the AZL, you were DHing and you could only hit from one side of the plate, correct?
Lane: Yeah, I was only hitting from the right side. The left side–you get that extension from that right arm and your follow through. It was still giving me some pain with that, so I was only able to hit from the right side.
I think I had one DH appearance and went 2-for-2 or 2-for-3. It was good to get back out there. I hadn't seen anything for awhile. Then having the surgery after that was kind of a bummer, but I'm just glad to be healthy and I'm ready to get everything going.
Cole: Even when you started the year in the AZL and you were still hitting from both sides of the plate, were you feeling any pain in your arm?
Lane: Not really. There was no pain until the injury. Until I got shut down, there was no pain at all. Before the injury, I made a throw home with no pain, no problems, no nothing. Then that at-bat–a curveball low that I fouled off and kind of one-handed it–I heard it click. The pop wasn't really painful, but it was just sore. From then on, that's when the pain started. But before that, no pain at all–everything was 100 percent. Until then, that's when everything kind of went the other direction.
Cole: How are you feeling right now? Are you back at 100 percent?
Lane: 100 percent pain-wise, yes. There is no pain. Arm strength-wise, I'm still on a throwing program and backing it up. Today I threw from 120 feet and tomorrow it'll be backing up to 150. Pain-wise, there is nothing, but I'm just trying to build arm strength back, get stamina back, and then I'll be full-go in all the workouts.
Cole: How do you feel about the way you've performed in these workouts so far?
Lane: It is getting better. The speed of the pitch is so much different than in high school. The main thing is getting ready early to see the ball and then hit it instead of trying to rush. We've been working on my timing–getting ready earlier to see the ball better and hit the ball.
Actually, the last couple days have been a whole lot better than the first two days I was here. But I feel like everything is improving every day, so hopefully I'll keep springing forward into the season.
Cole: When are you going to be playing in games?
Lane: I won't start playing games until Saturday.
Cole: When you do play in games, will you be DHing or are you going to be playing in the outfield?
Lane: Hopefully I'll be in the outfield. I don't plan on any setbacks. Once they get me in the game, I'm clear. Once they say I'm free to go, I'm free to go. I don't want to DH, I don't want to pinch run. I want to play in the game and I want to do everything a normal player would. I know I can do that–there's no pain. So as soon as they let me go, I'm going to hit it.
Cole: What are you looking to improve upon either defensively or offensively this season?
Lane: Offensively, definitely I want to cut down on the strikeouts. I struck out a lot during the AZL. It wasn't so much that we were working with different things–we were really trying to find a good approach to have to go about attacking the pitchers. So this year, I want to have a really good approach and cut down on the strikeouts, put the ball in play, and let my legs work for me from both sides of the plate. Defensively, I want to be more sound cutting balls off in the gap. I just really want to go all-out and try to play Gold Glove defense.
Cole: You mentioned the timing issue earlier and getting used to the speed of pro ball. Do you think some of those strikeout issues will fix themselves once you get that timing down?
Lane: Definitely. Sometimes I felt like I was just late on a lot of things. A lot of it starts with your lower half. You've got to get ready with your lower half to see the ball and incorporate it. I think now, being more adjusted to the speed of the pitch and being ready to hit, that will cut down on a bunch of the strikeouts.
Lane making return from surgery
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