BOISE — From the confidence, to his role to his results, a lot is different this season for the Boise Hawks' Trey Lang.
A starting pitcher in 2013 for the Hawks, his year saw more downs than ups, eventually necessitating a move into the bullpen.
In nine games out of the pen, he has a 0.79 ERA in 11[0xb7] innings with 13 strikeouts and four walks. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Lang has not only accepted the switch, but run with it.
"I just feel really comfortable," Lang said. "There were definitely times where I was like, 'Oh crap, it's my day to start,' and now I just can't wait to get my chance to be on the mound."
Opponents are hitting just .179 off Lang, who has yielded only seven hits. With an improved command of the strike zone, Lang's fastball that touches the mid-90s and solid breaking ball are a tough combination late in the game.
"He's got very good stuff, and sometimes those short outings are tough on guys - you have to be on, and for him to do that so far, we're really happy with what he's been able to do," Hawks manager Gary Van Tol said.
Lang isn't afraid to reflect on the events that caused him to become a reliever, which is a sign of his rediscovered confidence. In six games last season with the Hawks (four starts), Lang had a 9.82 ERA and walked 13 batters in 14 innings. Among the hard-to-see numbers were six wild pitches in his first start, which matched the most wild pitches by an entire Northwest League team since 2008.
"At least I have some sort of record," Lang said with a laugh.
The struggles led to a demotion to rookie league Mesa midway through the season, then Lang was brought back to Boise before last year's playoff run. Before he could take a step forward, he had to take a step back, and he found himself down in Arizona.
"I wasn't surprised at all," Lang said. "I just worked really hard, putting in a lot of extra work off the field, and that consistent work let me see what I was capable of doing."
Van Tol said the pitcher, once lacking in confidence, is now one of his clubhouse leaders.
"It hasn't been the smoothest ride, but that sort of ride is more common than those guys think," Van Tol said. "Going through those tough times, he can really be a positive influence on guys that might be struggling, and I look to him for that."
Though control is a continuing battle for Lang - he has six wild pitches this season - he has discovered a fit in relief, where his mind and throws have no time to wander.
"It's a completely different mindset," Lang said. "You compete every single pitch. I may face only three batters in that inning, but I walk off the mound feeling like I just ran 10 miles. If I gave up two runs in a start, that's good, but in relief, that could change the game. I like how it pushes me and makes every pitch count."
Dave Southorn: 377-6420; Twitter: @IDS_Southorn