It’s been a struggle in 2020 for the Cincinnati Reds bullpen, and for Michael Lorenzen it’s been an even bigger one. The right-handed reliever has been very good since transitioning to the bullpen following the 2015 season, posting an ERA of 3.39 in 297.1 innings from 2016-2019 for the Reds. But 2020 has been a 2-week stretch that he would like to have not gone through. On Sunday he entered the game with a 11.81 ERA in six appearances, and on top of the seven earned runs he was charged with, he had also allowed both inherited runners he entered games with on base to score. Only one game of the six saw him not allow at least one run.
Sunday in Milwaukee was more of the same. Sonny Gray exited the game with one out and two runners on in the 6th inning. Michael Lorenzen came in and allowed a walk, an RBI single, and then walked in two more runs before being replaced by Cody Reed. No outs recorded, two inherited runs scored, and he was charged with three earned runs of his own. At the end of the day his ERA sits at 16.88.
“It really comes back to as much success as Michael’s had in his career, right now he’s struggling with his confidence,” said manager David Bell after the game. “Main thing is, we need him. We need him to be good. We know he’s going to, and I’m going to make sure he knows that. That’s the most important thing. We’re just going to help him through it and keep looking for opportunities to allow him to pitch through it.”
The Reds have used Michael Lorenzen in critical situations this season due to his track record in the past. That hasn’t turned out so well given how he’s pitched this year, though.
“We have to always pay attention to who’s pitching well,” said Bell. “You trust the track record, but of course we’re evaluating every day to see where guys are and to know where to use guys and with where we are in our bullpen, or anytime where we have a lead or a close game and we have to get through the 6th to 9th inning, Michael’s going to get an opportunity to pitch in that game. Simple as that – it didn’t work out today. Michael’s going to be fine, Michael’s going to be a good pitcher for a long time and we just need to do everything we can to help him through this. I know in the end it’s on him, and that’s really what I trust – I believe in him a ton, we all do, he’s going to get through it.”
With runners on base, and Lorenzen having had the struggles that he has had during the early part of this season, Bell explained why he was the option in the 6th.
“We had Michael up in the 5th, and then Sonny really made some pitches so we decided we were going to let him go back out. In order to get through the nine innings today, Michael was one of the guys we were going to go to today,” Bell said. “The fact that he was hot, if we would have sat him back down – never crossed my mind. Mainly because we believe in Michael and we wanted to give him the ball right there. We had Michael, Amir, Nate Jones, and Iggy – basically an inning a piece, max. They were all going to get the ball in order to get a win there.”
Moving forward it sounds like there could be some changes in how Michael Lorenzen could be used after his struggles this weekend in Milwaukee.
“We got to do whatever is best for Michael. I haven’t talked to Michael yet, this is all very fresh,” said Bell. “He had an outing last night where it didn’t go perfect and he allows a run. We made a decision before the game that the best thing for Michael was to give him the ball again if the situation presented itself. While we were in the game we knew that he was going to be one of the guys to get us through the game at that point. That was last night and today. Now we move forward and reevaluate and see what we can do to get him back to where he needs to be. We’ll be thinking about that, but at this point for our team and for Michael we need to do what’s best for him.”
Sonny Gray was the recipient of runs being charged to him after he left the game on Sunday. He was asked about what it’s like to watch the struggles of a teammate.
“In order for this team and us to go where we want to go, he’s going to be a big part of it,” said Gray. “I’ve been through struggles myself. It is difficult to watch because you know how talented he is and you know how much he cares. It’s just something he’s going to have to sit back, take a deep breathe, gather himself going forward and make an adjustment from there. It’s going to have to start between the ears. He’s got to figured out who he wants to be, which direction he wants to go. His talent is through the roof, there’s no question about that. But we’re going to need him moving forward. In order for us to get where we want to go, he’s going to be a big part of it. I have all the faith in Michael that he will get himself right. And once he gets a grasp of it, I think he’ll start trending in the right direction.”
This isn’t the first time in the career of Michael Lorenzen that he’s had some struggles on the mound, though it’s been a while since he has. As a rookie back in 2015 he was in the starting rotation and from July 20th through August 31st he made six starts and allowed 32 runs in 24.0 innings. That’s an ERA of 12.00 over a six week span. But he got things figured out and turned them around. He’s been there before where he’s probably had some questioning of his stuff and execution and he’s come out the other side. Hopefully he can draw on that once again and get things going in the right direction, and soon, because the season may be early, but it’s also not very long and the Reds need their bullpen to improve dramatically from where it’s been to start the season.