Cincinnati Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen continues to work in the outfield, trying to join Shohei Ohtani as a two-way player.
Lorenzen’s unique skills could help David Bell with roster flexibility when he qualifies as a two-way player. The major leagues are limiting teams to 13 pitchers this season but Lorenzen could join Shohei Ohtani as a player who will also pitch, essentially becoming a 14th pitcher.
The new rules increase the active roster to 26, but limits the number of pitchers to 13. A player could be designated a two-way player with 20 games as a position player or designated hitter with a minimum of three plate appearances and pitching at least 20 innings.
Lorenzen pitched 83 1/3 innings in 73 games in 2019.
Lorenzen made six starts with the requisite plate appearances, also entering games as a pinch hitter, pinch runner or a late-inning defensive replacement for a total of 32 games.
For 2020, games from 2018 and 2019 count. Ohtani pitched 51 2/3 innings over 10 starts. He was the DH for 82 games, collecting 367 plate appearances in 2018. Injuries prevented Ohtani from pitching in 2019.
Ohtani’s advantage is the designated hitter rule in the American La ague. Lorenzen has to play in the field to qualify and needs more than a few innings to get three plate appearances..
“I think it is ridiculous that I’m not considered an official two-way player when I played in over 100 games last year,” Lorenzen said. “They give zero credit to defense. That’s where to me it’s ridiculous because I was called into play defense in high leverage innings in the outfield when I’m not pitching. How does that not count? It’s not like they’re trying to hide me in left field. I’m a plus defender used in high leverage situations. They need to change that rule.”
Lorenzen had 10 hits in 48 at bats last season with a home run, two doubles and eight RBIs. He went 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position (.385, two doubles, four RBIs).
In an 8-5 win on Sept. 4 against Philadelphia, Lorenzen joined Babe Ruth as the only Major League players since 1900 to earn the win, hit a home run and play the outfield in the same game.
David Bell admitted that he was too cautious with Lorenzen last season.
“I do think at some point, I realized that I probably held him back a little bit too much,” Bell said.”I was concerned about his energy level. We got to a point in the year, that I felt like we could see the end. I wasn’t as concerned about wearing him out. He handled it extremely well.”
Lorenzen was 1-4 with seven saves and a 2.92 ERA. He struck out 85 batters and walked 28.
“Pitching is his priority,” Bell said. “Depending where he is as a pitcher, his availability factors into how I can use him for a game. I’m not going to hold him back in that way. If there is a way that we can win a game as a position player and it doesn’t effect his pitching, he will be totally available.”
Lorenzen is refining a routine that he developed last spring.
“I’m trying to improve my movements from year-to-year. They are very pitch specific,” said Lorenzen who joins nine others in a crowded outfield.
“I’m doing a little more work with the outfielders this year. Once the pitchers go into conditioning, I run around with the outfielders. That is my conditioning as well as coming back to the weight room to do whatever else I need to get done.”