- March 11, 2019: Reds relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen wasn’t trying to downplay his feelings or play it cool. Lorenzen was already geared up knowing that he is scheduled to make his spring debut in center field vs. the Indians.
“Oh yeah, I’m really excited. I can’t wait,” Lorenzen said. “It’s starting to get fun.” Manager David Bell plans to have Lorenzen pitch an inning of relief vs. Cleveland, likely in the fifth, and then play two innings in the outfield. The expectation is he would get at least one at-bat.
“It will be good for us to see him too a little bit over the next couple of weeks,” Bell said. “We’re pretty confident that if it’s well thought out and we handle it the right way, he’ll be able to help us in other ways, more than just pitching for sure.” Before he was drafted by the Reds in 2013, Lorenzen was a college center fielder and closer for Cal State-Fullerton. After he got to the big leagues, initially as a starting pitcher, he was able to show off his hitting skills.
Lorenzen, 27, batted .290 in 55 games last season and led all pitchers with four home runs, including two as a pinch-hitter. He has hit six homers over his career, including three as a pinch-hitter. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s one of four Major League players ever with at least three pinch-hit homers and 100 games pitched. The others were Gary Peters (1959-72), Lynn Nelson (1930-40) and Jack Stivetts (1889-99).
As he established himself with the Reds, Lorenzen often lobbied for the chance to play the outfield. Former interim manager Jim Riggleman finally gave him one inning in right field on Aug. 13 vs. Cleveland last season, and he's taken reps as a center fielder this spring. The previous coaching staff was hesitant to explore having Lorenzen be a two-way player because they wanted him – and needed him – to focus on pitching effectively. Seeking maximum roster flexibility, Bell and his coaches established quickly that they were interested in giving it a shot.
“I’m just excited for him. I’m excited for what he can do for our team,” Bell said. “I’m excited about his approach to what he’s trying to do to be prepared to help us in any way. He’s the type of athlete that can do this. We just have to figure out how to make it work, because it’s new. It’s pretty rare. We want to be very thoughtful about how we use that. He’s doing everything he possibly can to prepare himself.”
|Nickname:||Cowboy or Zen Master||Position:||RHP|
|Birth City:||Anaheim, CA|
|Draft:||Reds #1 (suppl.) - 2013 - Out of Cal State-Fullerton|
Lorenzen grew up in Fullerton, California, not far from Angels Stadium. He grew up watching Jim Edmonds patrol center field for the Angels.
Michael played and lettered for four years at Fullerton High School, where he earned numerous awards and honors. He then enrolled at nearby Cal-State Fullerton.
Lorenzen's story is part talent, part faith, part Little Brother's revenge. He is the fourth of four boys. The oldest, Jonathan, is 10 years older, and when he was drafted in the 14th round by the Dodgers, 9-year-old Michael said he could catch Jonathan's heat with no problem.
"I'm making fun of him and now he's reaching back," Michael remembered.
Father Cliff saw it and began to tell Jonathan to cut it out. Then he noticed Michael was catching everything. Easy. Michael survived the WrestleMania re-creations with Jonathan, Matthew and Anthony, and followed them to Katella High or to Boysen Park whenever they worked out.
Jonathan had Tommy John surgery and had to give up his dream, and Matthew played at Fullerton and Cypress colleges before he stopped. By then they sensed Michael would upstage them all.
Michael was "playing up" from the beginning. He could have played with 13-year old kids when he was nine, but the rules intervened. He played with the Southern California Samurai, a travel ball team coached by Ron Payne, whose son was a Cal State Fullerton batboy.
"It gave me something to prove," he said. "I think I like that."
When Lorenzen was 16 years old, a new path opened for him. "I was drunk and high on a pier in Huntington Beach," he recalled. "Some guy was sharing about how Jesus died for my sins. I had known the story because I live in America, but I was never taught the story.
"My parents were alcoholics. They met through drugs. My brothers were big partiers. That was the lifestyle I was going to follow. Those were influences on my life. My dad left when I was 10. I was free to do whatever I wanted. I had my brothers and that was it. They were in trouble all the time.
"I was gong down a path that didn't lead to here. The message that guy shared when I was high and drunk, it hit me. It changed my life. It showed me that I was being selfish with my talent."
Michael comes in from the bullpen to "Amazing Grace."
Michael says his first baseball memory is of "playing Wiffle ball in the front yard with my brothers."
Lorenzen reminds baseball people of outfielder Jake Marisnick. Both are tall, athletic, and projectable.
During Lorenzen's junior year at Cal State-Fullerton, he hit .335 with 7 homers and 54 RBI while playing a great defensive center field. On the mound, he was even better, earning 19 saves in 22 chances and posting a 3-0 record and a 1.99 ERA.
Michael's nickname is "Cowboy," though he lives in his hometown of Anaheim.
In 2010, the Rays made Lorenzen their 7th round pick in the draft, out of Fullerton Union High School in California. But Michael didn't sign, instead accepting a baseball scholarship to Cal State-Fullerton, while working on his business degree.
"It was a tough decision at first," Lorenzen said. Too tough to make singlehandedly, in fact.
His dad, whom Lorenzen credits for "keeping baseball fun," had moved to Reno. Michael was struggling with that, and his brother, Matthew, had made friends with Bob Blackner, a volunteer pastor at Calvary Church of Costa Mesa.
Michael and Blackner began meeting every Friday at 8:00 a.m. for breakfast.
"He's become like another father figure," Lorenzen said. "He kept saying to pray about it, not to be too jumpy, make sure you're prepared if baseball doesn't work out. We came up with a number. That made it easier. The Rays didn't hit that number, so I came to college."
"Playing in college means I can play to win for the last time (until the Majors)," Lorenzen said.
"There are a lot of scouts and agents out there and I want to help protect Michael from them," Blackner said. "He's a believer. Baseball can be a tough atmosphere for a believer, but he realizes what's important. I think he's doing very well."
Lorenzen says one reason he enjoys pitching is that he can be in a state of "constant prayer" on the mound, as opposed to batting. Big West hitters pray right along with him. Lorenzen throws in the mid-90s.
Michael is a very good baseball player. He has a strong feel for the game. And he plays with passion.
Lorenzen's favorites include: Ryan Braun (baseball player), Fenway Park (stadium), Goodwin Field (place to play baseball), "Step Brothers" (movie), Tim Tebow (athlete), Zac Brown Band (musical artists), The Bible (book), and Jim Carrey (actor).
In 2014, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Lorenzen as the 6th-best prospect in the Reds' organization. He was at 4th-best near the start of 2015 spring training.
Michael is very close to his family, and his favorite book is the Bible. Those two facts explain his demeanor and his character. He does not get rattled easily, nor do the little things seem to ever worry him.
During the offseason before 2015 spring training, Lorenzen allowed fans a chance to see what he's been up to in a video he posted on YouTube that became viral.
The video is essentially a day in the life—opening with Michael making breakfast (eggs) before praying with friends prior to his first workout of that day—a run at 8:00 a.m. that ends on a California beach, where he begins his next workout at 9:30, which includes a heavy battle rope session and work with a medicine ball. Then agility drills in the sand and a swim in the Pacific Ocean.
At 1:00 p.m., Lorenzen begins weight training at Cal State-Fullerton. Following that, he goes outside for some throwing. He puts on his "Aroldis Chapman cleats," which he jokes will help him hopefully throw harder in 2015. He then begins by throwing a football with a partner for a warmup before starting his baseball throwing routine.
As Michael throws, a voice-over of Michael begins. He says during it that he wants to work hard now, even though spring training is months away because, "I'm not promised tomorrow and I want to take full advantage of the time that God has given me today." The video ends with Lorenzen, clad in a Reds warmup shirt, talking about his Christian faith. Check out the 12-minute video on YouTube. (Matthew Hager - Reds Report - January 2015)
With his father in the building on Father's Day 2015, Lorenzen put on a seven-inning performance strong enough to earn the 5-2 victory and made a memory he'll never forget.
"This was a special day pitching on Father's Day," Lorenzen said. "I got to throw on Mother's Day last time and I actually got to fly in my dad last night. This is the second time he's seen me play in person since I was about 16, maybe since I was 9. So it's a pretty special day."
"He really did a great job," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Lorenzen. "We were a little concerned because he's been sick with strep throat. He just never for a minute would suggest that he wasn't going to be able to go out there and do the job that we asked him to do."
He said his father had to move away when he was a kid because of family issues and since then, hasn't been able to see him play in person often. Knowing he'd be pitching on Father's Day, Lorenzen took the initiative to bring his dad out to Cincinnati.
"He follows me on TV and we talk every once in awhile," he said. "But being able to pitch on Father's Day in the Major Leagues, I thought today would be an awesome day to be able to fly him out and let him watch in person." Lorenzen added that he'd go out to dinner with his father to continue the celebration.
"It's a huge confidence builder, and it's something that I'm going to build off of and not worry so much about," Lorenzen said. "Just trust that I belong here." (Bondy - mlb.com - 6/21/15)
Off-Season before 2016: Lorenzen owns a gym and yoga studio near his home in Laguna Beach, Calif., and barely takes any time off after the season ends. Lorenzen prepares himself—physically and mentally. To him, that requires being in the gym not only daily—but three times per day.
2016 season: Lorenzen wore No. 55 in college, he wore No. 79 in the spring of 2015, and then wore No. 50 as a rookie in 2015. Once again, Lorenzen has a new number. This time, though, it’s more of than just a number on his back, part of his autograph or the way to identify which spikes are his. Every time he looks and sees the No. 21 below his last name, it’s a reminder.
No. 21 reminds Lorenzen that his mission in life is bigger than baseball, bigger than a single game or a single pitch. Lorenzen wants to stand for something much more, to use baseball for more than a paycheck, but to do something bigger, to live up to the very reason he is now wearing No. 21, to honor the late, great Roberto Clemente.
Always a fan of the history of the game, Lorenzen knew the history and story of the Pirates great. One of the first great Latin American stars, Clemente was not only a leader on the field, someone who stood for much more off the field. Every year, Major League Baseball awards the Roberto Clemente Award to a player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” (C. Trent Rosecrans, - Cincinnati Enquirer - Feb. 2016)
First job: "When I was 15, I worked at a restaurant in Disneyland, called Naples. I was like a busboy, clean-the-bathroom-boy," Lorenzen recalled. "It was a tough job, for sure. It made me work that much harder at baseball. It made me want to have fun doing my job."
First baseball player he met: "I would say Eric Karros when I was just a kid at a Dodgers game. He came over and signed a ball for me," Michael said. "It was just the coolest thing ever. I was like 9 or 10."
Last book read: "I would say I Timothy of the Bible."
Personality qualities you most admire: "Grace is a good quality to have. And have mercy on people. Another one is just truthfulness. Good work ethic. No excuses," Lorenzen said.
Aug 16-19, 2016: Lorenzen was on the bereavement list following the death of his father.
Aug 19, 2016: Michael let the tears flow in the dugout after a powerfully emotional trot around the bases. How could they not? What were the odds something this amazing could happen for him under such difficult circumstances?
Back from the bereavement list following the death of his father, Cliff, Lorenzen pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings and also batted for just the fourth time this season. And on the first pitch he saw from Pedro Baez, he slugged a three-run homer that capped the Reds' 9-2 victory over the Dodgers. It was the first home run of Lorenzen's career.
"Definitely, everything happens for a reason," Lorenzen said. "It was something that I look and just praise God for. It was something special, not only for me, but for my family. Everyone that's been supporting us, I just want to say thank you for the prayers and just the support. It's really helped out a lot, just people reaching out. It's humbled me, this whole situation. Everything that happened tonight, I don't think I will ever feel that way again."
Reds manager Bryan Price did not plan on giving Lorenzen a soft landing upon his return, since he told him he was ready to go pregame. Although Price gave him a 6-1 lead to protect with one out in the seventh, there were two men on. Lorenzen retired the final two batters of the seventh. Needed to pitch the next inning, he was given the chance to bat for himself in the bottom of the seventh with two men on and two out.
"Even after the third out of my first inning I threw, I had to go back into the bathroom because I broke down," Lorenzen said. "There were some teammates back there who were able to help me out. So I was able to go out and hit."
"I think it was emotional for all of us, none more certainly than Michael after what he's been through here recently," Price said. "I never thought I would see something like that, this majestic and poetic and emotional as that moment. For him to first come in and put out a rally and then face Baez, and hit a home run off a 97-98 mph fastball, it seems unlikely. It seemed like divine intervention, for sure."
When Lorenzen touched home plate, he pointed both index fingers to the sky. Upon his return to the dugout, he was received by all of his Reds teammates—with a tight hug from backup catcher Ramon Cabrera coming last. "We're pretty close," Cabrera said. "I saw him running the bases and I cried. I just wanted to be the last person to give him a hug."
As Lorenzen and the team had their moment together, the 28,184 fans at Great American Ball Park—seemingly aware of Lorenzen's circumstances—got louder and asked for a curtain call. The pitcher obliged with the encouragement of teammates. "I was humbled by everything and just so happy, my family needed that," Lorenzen said. "It was just a great feeling to be able to do that."
After all of that, Lorenzen still had to gather himself another time so he could pitch the top of the eighth inning. He allowed a pair of two-out singles, but got Chris Taylor to ground to first base and covered the bag himself for the third out. (M Sheldon - MLB.com - Aug 20, 2016)
Michael isn’t shy about what he thinks he can do on a baseball field. Sure, he’s proven he can be an electric reliever, pairing his high-90s fastball with a variety of secondary pitches to post a 2.88 ERA out of the bullpen in2016. If he had a long and storied career as a feared back-end reliever, no one would be surprised. But that’s an awful small box to be placed in, Lorenzen thinks.
Similarly small is the debate about whether he should start or relieve. The 25-year-old right-hander wants more than that. He wants to be the first two-way player in modern baseball history.
“No one’s ever done it,” Lorenzen said. “It’s something I would be excited about, something I would be ready for. It’s something that in the future I can kind of see come to fruition sometime.”
Lorenzen certainly has the background. He was drafted out of Cal State Fullerton as a pitcher, but was a legitimate prospect as a center fielder and hitter. He’s in fantastic shape, and prides himself on his athleticism. To a certain extent, the Cincinnati Reds are willing to let him try.
“I don’t think I’m just a pitcher,” Lorenzen said. “I’m an all-around baseball player. One day it’d be sweet to be a two-way player. I’m not saying that’s something I can’t do. I really think that I can do that.” (Zach Buchan - enquirer.com - March 25, 2017)
April 6, 2017: Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen was called on to enter the game in the bottom of the sixth inning of the Reds' 7-4 victory over the Phillies. That's not so odd; relievers are called on in the middle of games all the time. However, Reds manager Bryan Price had him come in to bat as a pinch-hitter. The lanky right-hander then blasted a home run to give the Reds a 5-4 lead.
Michael leads all non-Shohei Ohtani pitchers with four long balls in 2018. He's even appeared in seven games as a pinch-hitter, going 3-for-6 with two home runs (one was a grand slam).
Would it surprise you to learn that he is also the most jacked pitcher in the game? You don't hit home runs with noodle arms, but with miniature mountains of muscles stacked upon your body.
Lorenzen's physique certainly made an impact on Dodgers broadcasters Joe Davis and former pitcher Orel Hershiser when he made an appearance during the Reds' 10-6 win against the Dodgers on September 10, 2018.
It's good to know that baseball uniforms are custom made for every player, so Lorenzen opted for the "muscles that can barely be contained by my sleeves" look. In the bottom half of the inning, Lorenzen showed it's not just his arms, but his legs that are powerful beasts, too, as he ran out a hustle double. Oddly enough, despite the homers, this was his first career double. (Clair - mlb.com - 9/13/18)
Feb 21, 2019: Reds management clearly doesn’t view pitcher Michael Lorenzen's ability to be a two-way player as a novelty. The plan for Lorenzen that was in place became reality. On the Reds' Spring Training schedule posted in the clubhouse, Lorenzen was grouped with the outfielders to take batting practice. In past camps, hitting was often considered extra work for Lorenzen after he finished his usual workout with the pitchers. But that was then, and this is now.
“We've put together a plan for the whole spring, knowing we can adjust it at any time,” Reds manager David Bell said. “We didn't want to go into each day not knowing what he's going to do. We all felt better, he did, too. He was part of putting it together.”
On the pitching side, the Reds plan to build up Lorenzen’s innings this spring, so he can be stretched out enough to either start -- if needed -- or work multiple innings as a reliever. Once that’s accomplished, the club plans to give him more opportunities to hit and play in the outfield. Bell expects Lorenzen to play in center field when he plays a position.
Lorenzen, 27, was 4-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 45 games (three starts) in 2018. As a hitter, he batted .290 in 54 games last season and led all pitchers with four home runs (two as a pinch-hitter). He was thrilled with the Reds’ approach to his unique skill set.
“It’s fantastic, the effort they’re putting in,” Lorenzen said. “A lot of the excuses were, 'You know, we don’t want to overwork him.’ Well, let’s just sit down and talk about it then. They were willing to sit down and talk about it, which is one of the reasons why I love this staff so much and why I think the front office did a great job [hiring] this staff. They’re willing to find solutions for problems.”
It took a lot to coordinate everything, and it involved hitting coach Turner Ward, pitching coach Derek Johnson, outfield coach Jeff Pickler, head trainer Steve Baumann, strength coach Sean Marohn, along with others on the Reds' staff.
Having the plan also prevents Lorenzen from trying to do too much or wearing himself out.
“When everyone is on the same page, it’s beneficial for everyone,” Lorenzen said. “It’s not, ‘Where’s Lorenzen? Where’s he at?’ I’m not feeling like I’m doing anything I’m not supposed to. We have the plan laid out. Everyone knows what I’m doing. When I need my rest, I will take my rest because I’m getting the work I need to get in, vs. me going out and getting extra work in all the time and wearing on my body.” (M Sheldon - MLB.com - Feb 21, 2019)
June 2013: The Reds chose Lorenzen with their supplemental first round draft pick, the 38th player chosen. And he signed for a $1.5 million bonus. Lorenzen, who had 19 saves while batting .335 as an outfielder and pitcher for Cal-State Fullerton in 2013, initially began his pro career as a relief pitcher. But he was also given the opportunity to keep hitting in the Minors.
The Reds work creatively to acquire pitchers in the draft. They’ve had success drafting lower-profile college pitchers with funky arm actions, and they’ve shown interest in those who serve as two-way players in college. Lorenzen served primarily as Cal State-Fullerton’s center fielder, but he also closed.
- Jan 12, 2018: Michael and the Reds avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal for $1.31 million.
- Jan 11, 2019: Michael and the Reds avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal for $1.95 million.
Lorenzen attacks hitters with his 95-99 mph four-seam FASTBALL that has a lot of life, and 93-97 mph two-seam SINKER with sink and boring action. He also used a 90-94 mph CUTTER, but dropped it midway through the 2017 season. He has a hard 87-89 mph 11-to-5 slurvy-SLIDER that works more vertically than a traditional slider, but it is rated a "50" on the 20-80 scouting scale.
Michael also has an 82-85 CURVEBALL that he added in 2014. He also has an 87-91 mph CHANGEUP that is probably a 40 or 45 (below-average), but he locates it well and has the aptitude to throw it.
His Curve? "I watched some videos on Adam Wainwright, how he gripped his curveball, how he threw it. I got some input from a couple guys on the team, what they do when they throw it. I just started working on it and it is a good one."
In 2017, Michael improved significantly, partly because of improved mechanics. His delivery features a recoil, his torso and arm bouncing back upright after he releases a pitch. The move had been added to his delivery after 2016 as a way of helping him stay in line with the plate, but it had grown into too much of a good thing.
As mid-2017 approached, Lorenzen began focusing too much on the recoil, at the expense of pitch extension. His arm would slow down as it whipped toward the plate, a subconsciously proactive preparation for the fling back upward. His pitches would come out flat, and lifeless, and hitter tee off.
To correct the issue, Reds bullpen coach Ted Power devised a simple drill. When Michael plays catch before games, he bends over to touch the ground after each throw. In the beginning, it was stiff motion—throw, then bend, then touch. The move became more fluid as he kept working with it.
Lorenzen was still recoiling, but he was finishing his pitches first. He can feel the difference in his pitch quality. He paired that with some changes to his arsenal, made with advice from the team's analytics department. The cutter, a pitch he fell in love with after picking it up last year was downgraded in favor of a sinker that became more effective with proper mechanics. He also started relying more on is slider and curveball. (Mark Schmetzer - Reds Report - October, 2017)
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 20.2% of the time; Sinker 27.8% of the time; Change 2% of the time; Slider 8.2%; Curve 9.1% of the time; and Cutter 33% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 2.2% of the time; Sinker 48.7% of the time; Change 2.3% of the time; Slider 12.4%; Curve 11.4% of the time; and Cutter 22.9% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 10.7% of the time, his Sinker 40.8%; Change 7.4%; Slider 6.2%; Curve 4.6%; and Cutter 30.3% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 96 mph, Sinker 95.4, Change 87.7, Slider 86, Curve 82.1, and Cutter 90.9 mph.
- Michael throws very hard almost effortlessly.
He keeps the ball low in the zone with his fastball and changeup. So he rarely gives up a home run.
What might be more impressive than his stuff is his mound presence. Regardless of the situation, whether he has walked the bases loaded of he picks off a runner at first, Lorenzen's demeanor remains the same.
He does not glare at umpires and he does not call out his teammates either verbally or with body language. But he is one fierce competitor.
During the offseason before 2015 spring training, Lorenzen decided to improve the mental side of his game. Now, he arrives at the park each day and follows a new routine set to maximize his time at work.
And he watches highlights of Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom and Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura to pick up any tips he can from those the pitchers he considers to boast similar repertoires.
July 1, 2018: On the heels of Michael's hitting three home runs in his last three at-bats—including two as a pinch-hitter in two games in a row—there are no immediate plans for the club to exploit his bat in more grandiose ways. But one advantage Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman has on days Lorenzen pitches is that he doesn't have to double-switch to avoid using Michael's bat. (Sheldon - mlb.com)
- As of the start of the 2019 season, Michael has a career record of 18-16 with 4.21 ERA, having allowed 38 home runs and 328 hits in 327 innings.
- 2019 Spring Training: Lorenzen will certainly be one of the Reds' key bullpen assets when the club breaks camp. Bell is targeting the middle of this month to start using him as a center fielder in a few games.
Cincinnati is trying to find ways to get Lorenzen’s bat into games and take advantage of his versatility. He has six career home runs, including four in 2018, but it’s not expected that the right-hander will be regularly utilized in the outfield.Lorenzen was a center fielder with Cal State Fullerton during college before he was drafted by the Reds in 2013.
March 25-June 22, 2016: Lorenzen was on the DL with a mild strain and tendinitis in his throwing elbow.
March 21, 2018: Lorenzen came down with an injury to his teres major muscle, one of the two muscles on the back that connects to the shoulders. It’s the same muscle that initially shut down Brandon Finnegan last year—Finny’s being on his left (throwing) arm, Lorenzen’s on his right (throwing) arm. The initial reports suggest that it’s not as serious a strain as the one that shut down Finnegan, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon relayed from manager Bryan Price.
So there’s reason to believe that Lorenzen will start the year on the 10-day DL.
- March 25-May 23, 2018: Michael began the year on the DL with a Grade 1 strain of his right teres major muscle.