Rebuilding clubs often need to push prospects into big league situations sooner than they otherwise would. Michael Lorenzen, who struggled in the majors in 2015 and missed the first two and a half months of 2016, definitely fell into that category. The Reds needed any help they could get and so the 24-year-old was sent to the majors as soon as his elbow healed up. After two years experimenting as a starter, Lorenzen was moved back to the bullpen and looked much sharper in the role. His average fastball velocity moved up to 96.2 mph, he struck out 48 batters in 50 innings and he cut his ERA nearly in half from the year before. The Reds have decided not to mess with success -- they will keep Lorenzen in the bullpen in 2017. He may see some high-leverage relief work, but Drew Storen and Raisel Iglesias will be the top candidates for save opportunities.
Lorenzen gave up a three-run, game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth inning Friday night against the Cubs. With Raisel Iglesias throwing a multi-inning outing on Thursday, the Reds tried to get Lorenzen to get six outs to get the save Friday and were one out away when Anthony Rizzo tied the game up off of Lorenzen. Overall, Lorenzen gave up four hits and a walk over two innings, striking out one. This was his first blown save of the season.
Lorenzen pitched a scoreless ninth inning with just a single walk allowed and a strikeout to pick up his first save of the season during Saturday's win over Milwaukee. Lorenzen was beat around for four earned runs during Friday's opening game of the series, so this was a nice bounce-back outing. He's in the mix to collect saves and pitch in high-leverage situations, and the 25-year-old righty has also fanned 10 hitters through eight innings, so there is upside. He's likely not going to receive the lion's share of save chances, though, which makes Lorenzen more of a complementary reliever than go-to source of saves.
Lorenzen threw three perfect innings in relief Monday against the Pirates, earning his first win. He came into the game in the third inning with the bases loaded and no outs, worked out of that jam, and pitched the fourth and fifth innings to boot. Despite his success in the bullpen, however, he still wants to start, Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. There's not a controversy about Lorenzen's role per se; rather, this is a case of him expressing confidence that he can do the job of a starter well. "I will be back in the rotation one day," he said. "When that time comes, I will capitalize on that opportunity and I will take advantage of it. I will run with it and never look back." Lorenzen has started the year by throwing six scoreless innings with just two hits and one walk against seven strikeouts.
Lorenzen hit the Reds' go-ahead pinch-hit homer in Thursday's win over the Phillies. The Reds said during spring training that they would use Lorenzen as a pinch-hitter occasionally, and they followed through with that Thursday afternoon. Lorenzen did not pitch in the game, having pitched in the two previous games. However they've suggested that they will occasionally use Lorenzen for multiple innings, and his hitting ability allows them to do that without burning another hitter off the bench.
The Reds could use Lorenzen occasionally as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner in addition to his relief pitcher duties, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Lorenzen has struggled on the mound this spring. In 9.1 innings he has a 6.75 ERA with 14 hits allowed, five walks and just three strikeouts. Drew Storen's velocity is down this spring and Raisel Iglesias is hurt, though perhaps not enough to make him unavailable to begin the season. Lorenzen is expected to be part of the Reds' closer mix, but his current form isn't that encouraging.
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