When the Cincinnati Reds drafted Michael Lorenzen out of Cal State Fullerton he had mostly been a starting center fielder. But he also would come in to close games out as a relief pitcher. In 2014, his first full season as a professional, the Reds moved him into the rotation full time and sent him to Double-A. It was an aggressive approach, but Lorenzen made 24 starts and posted a 3.13 ERA in 120.2 innings with 44 walks and 84 strikeouts. The next year he jumped up to Triple-A, and made his Major League debut in the Cincinnati rotation before April was over. He would make a few appearances in the minors later in the year, but almost the entirety of his rookie season was in the rotation with the Reds.
That 2015 season was also the last time that Michael Lorenzen made more than three starts in a season. Back in 2018 he appeared in 42 games as a reliever and made three starts. In 2020 he made 16 appearances as a reliever and also made two starts. That’s it – five starts in the five seasons that have taken place since his rookie year. And during most of that time he’s made it known that he hoped to one day start again.
On Wednesday afternoon he again went public with that desire, telling MLB Network Radio’s Jon Morosi and Jim Duquette that he’s preparing to be a starter for the 2021 season. With Cincinnati potentially needing to fill spots in the rotation with free agents Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani hitting the market, a spot could be there for the taking.
“My expectation is to show up as a starter, and finish the season as a starter,” said Lorenzen when asked about showing up in spring training as a starter. “That’s where my mind is at and I’m excited for it. Just everything that I’ve learned through the coaching staff that we have – with DJ (pitching coach Derek Johnson), with Caleb (Cotham, assistant pitching coach), and with Lee Tunnell, (bullpen coach and with Trevor being there as well being another type of coach for me, just the stuff I’ve been able to take from these guys and learn. I’m excited to take that to the rotation and do what I can do. I think I have a lot to prove and I’m excited to be able to do that. ”
The Michael Lorenzen that started in 2015 is not the Michael Lorenzen that exists right now. Let’s look at his pitch usage and velocity from the two seasons:
Despite turning into a reliever, in the five seasons since making his debut, Michael Lorenzen has added two pitches. He’s throwing his fastball harder than before, significantly, and his pitch usage is a lot more even than the heavy fastball usage he showed as a rookie. But it’s not just the velocity and usage that’s changed – the pitches are moving quite differently, too.
His 4-seam fastball hasn’t changed it’s movement. The cutter barely existed in 2015, but when he would throw it every so often, it’s moving in a similar fashion to the cutter he threw in 2020. The change up, slider, and curveball, though – very different movements.
Using Brooks Baseball we can see the difference in movement in the pitches. His slider has become more cutter-like. The curveball has become a bit more slider-like. And the change up has a bit more 4-seam-like action to it than it did.
None of that information says that Michael Lorenzen will have more success as a starting pitcher now than he did as a rookie. But all of that information does say that he’s a very different pitcher now than he was when he struggled as a starting pitcher as a rookie. His walk rate was higher in 2020 than you’d like to see from anyone, but particularly from a starter. His strikeout rate, though, climbed to a career high – granted in just 33.2 innings pitched.
While nothing has been announced by the Reds as far as a plan for Michael Lorenzen in 2021 – it feels safe to assume they will at least give him a look in the spring as a starter unless they go out and fill the rotation in free agency or in trades. He’s likely competing with the likes of Tyler Mahle and Tejay Antone as things stand now for a spot in the rotation behind Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Wade Miley.