When the spring began there was talk of using Michael Lorenzen as a position player. In spring training he spent time on the backfields in minor league camp getting extra at-bats. The plan seemed to be to still use him mainly as a reliever, but to work him in games as a pinch hitter and a defensive replacement at times. Many believed, and still do, that he’s the best defensive center fielder on the team.
But when the season began that didn’t really play out. He pitched, and, well, he pitched. By the end of April he had two pinch hit appearances. And he did play a few innings in the outfield. What he didn’t do much of was hit, though. The at-bats completely dried up in May. Despite playing in 16 games he had one trip to the plate. In 12 games during June he also had one entire plate appearance. During July he made two appearances as a hitter – in both cases he hit for himself as a pitcher. August saw him step up to the plate five times, with three of those opportunities coming when he hit for himself.
But when Nick Senzel injured his shoulder early in September David Bell began to work Michael Lorenzen into the lineup as an outfielder some more. On September 5th he got his first start. A week later he would come in as a replacement outfielder and get three at-bats. Between September 14th and 18th he started four of the five games the Reds played in center.
This all seems to be a little bit too late, though. Why is it too late? Major League Baseball has some rule changes coming next year. It seems the one everyone is aware of and talking about is about the 3-batter minimum for a reliever. That’s going to eliminate the LOOGY from baseball. It’s purpose is to try and cut down on so many pitching changes that are slowing the game down. Whether it works or not, we’ll all find out together.
But one of the lesser talked about rule revolves around the allowed roster construction in 2020. The roster is expanding to 26 players next year. With the way the game has been going it would seem that teams would just go ahead and carry another pitcher. Major League Baseball doesn’t want teams to just load up on pitchers. And to avoid teams playing games, they are making it so players must be designated as either a pitcher or a position player. Or a player can be designated as a two-way player, but there’s a catch. To qualify for that a player must have pitched 20 innings and started at least 20 games as a position player/designated hitter the year before, and at least three plate appearances in those games.
There aren’t many guys in baseball who can do both. But Michael Lorenzen seemed like he could be one of those players. The Reds even seemed like they planned to use him that way. But with how he was used, or not used in 2019, he can not be designated as a two-way player for roster purposes in 2020. Love it or hate it, that hamstrings the way that the Reds could have used their additional roster spot next year and given them more flexibility than any other team in the National League.
This won’t stop Cincinnati from using Michael Lorenzen as a fielder or hitter in 2020. There are no rules that say a pitcher can’t be used as a position player. There are rules that dictate when a position player can pitch, though. But the Reds may have missed the boat throughout the year when it comes to finding a way to get Lorenzen 2-3 starts in the field a month to qualify him for next year as a two-way player and given themselves a little more creativity with roster construction moving forward.