Michael Lorenzen

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Michael Clifton Lorenzen

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Michael Lorenzen was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh round of the 2010 amateur draft but did not sign, opting to attend Cal State Fullerton instead. He was then taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the supplemental first round of the 2013 amateur draft. At Cal State-Fullerton, he was mainly a power-hitting outfielder, but he was also used as the team's closer his senior year, and it was as a pitcher that the Reds drafted him. Not only that, but they had plans to turn him into a starter, even though he had only pitched a total of 44 innings in college.

He made his pro debut the summer he was drafted, with the AZL Reds on July 3rd, the first of four abbreviated stops he would make that first season. He was 1-1, 3.00, pitching 21 innings in 22 outings. It took him less than two years to make it to the big leagues, following an excellent second year, in which he put up a 3.13 ERA in 120 2/3 innings as a starter for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the AA Southern League; his record was only 4-6, because the Reds were understandably reluctant to let him pitch deep into games, but everything else was positive.

He was invited to the Reds' spring training in 2015 and almost made the team's starting rotation. In the end, he was sent down to the AAA Louisville Bats to start the year but was called up to the Queen City after only three starts, when Homer Bailey went down for the year. He made his debut facing the Milwaukee Brewers on April 29th, and did pretty well, even though he allowed solo homers to Adam Lind, Khris Davis and Ryan Braun: he gave up no other runs in 5 innings, struck out 5 and only walked one, and even got his first big league hit, a solid single to right off Matt Garza in his first at-bat. Unfortunately, he left trailing 3-2, and his bullpen blew the game open, leaving him charged with an 8-3 loss. He went 4-9, 5.40 in 27 games, including 21 starts, logging 113 1/3 innings.

He was moved to the bullpen full-time in 2016 and on August 19th did something quite rare in this day and age: he homered as a relief pitcher. He had entered the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 7th inning, then in the bottom of the frame came up to bat against Pedro Baez and went deep with two men on in a 9-2 win. The blast came in Lorenzen's first game after he had left the team for nine days to be at his dying father's bedside. He made 35 appearances, all in relief, that season, going 2-1, 2.88 in 50 innings.

While Lorenzen's first career home run was a tribute to his late father, the relationship between the two was far from perfect. Clif Lorenzen was an alcoholic and a violent man who had deserted Michael's family when he was 12 in order to escape pending grand theft and forgery charges. It was not an easy relationship, but Michael eventually forgave his dad his failings. His older brother Jonathan Lorenzen was the first to make his mark in baseball, being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and playing briefly in their organization. That came just before his father skipped town for good. With his mother needing to work a late shift to make ends meet, Michael turned into a self-described "young punk", smoking copious amounts of weed and doing various stupid things. His brother wasted his baseball potential by being caught having sexual relations with an underage girl at the Dodgers' spring training complex, earning him jail time and ending his baseball career, before he eventually got his life back into control. For Michael, the turning point came at 17, when he found religion and was able to vanquish his personal demons. He worked with new dedication to fulfill his baseball talent, eventually earning a scholarship to Cal State-Fullerton.

On April 6, 2017, Michael once again made the news for hitting a home run. This one came as a pinch-hitter against Adam Morgan of the Philadelphia Phillies and broke a 4-4 tie in the 6th inning, propelling the Reds to a win. The team had started the season with only four bench players and manager Bryan Price had mentioned that he would use Lorenzen to pinch-hit on days when he was not available to pitch. That is exactly what happened, as he had appeared in his team's previous two games. He was the first pitcher to blast a pinch homer since Chris Owings had done so on May 10, 2009, also for the Reds. He recorded his first career save on April 15th when he pitched the 9th inning of a 7-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, the fifth Reds reliever of the game after Brandon Finnegan had to leave the game in the 1st inning because of a strained back muscle. He went 8-4, 4.45 in 70 appearances that season, with 2 saves and 83 innings pitched.

In 2018, he again made the news with his bat, as he homered in three consecutive at-bats: the first came as a pinch-hitter on June 24th, then he repeated the feat as a pitcher on June 29th and the following day capped things off with a pinch grand slam off Jacob Barnes of the Milwaukee Brewers in a 12-3 win. It was his fifth plate appearance as a pinch-hitter, and they had resulted in two homers, one hit and a walk. His pitching was not too shabby either, with a 1.93 ERA in 15 games. On August 13th, he played the field for the first time as a major leaguer, logging an inning in RF in a 10-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians while OF Brandon Dixon pitched the 9th. He had a hit in his sole plate appearance in the role. His fourth homer was a controversial one: pitching in relief in a high-scoring game against the Brewers on August 29th, he squared off to bunt with two men on and two strikes against Taylor Williams. Williams threw an inside slider that sent Michael to the ground as he checked his swing, and the ball glanced off his bat. The Brewers argued that he should have been out for bunting foul with two strikes, but umpire Tony Randazzo ruled that it was a regular foul ball and let the at-bat continue; on the next pitch, Lorenzen hit a three-run blast. Alas, the Reds lost that wild game, 13-12, in 10 innings. He finished the year at 4-2, 3.11 with 1 save in 45 games as a pitcher while hitting .290 with 4 homers and 10 RBIs in 31 at-bats.

Heading into spring training in 2019, the Reds announced that they were looking at Lorenzen as a potential two-way player, in the footsteps of Shohei Ohtani and that he would get an opportunity to play the outfield. The Reds were looking to use him more as a starter or long reliever to multiply his opportunities to also play the field. He did see regular time in the outfield that year, although never as a starter, and continued to hit well albeit in limited opportunities. On September 4th, however, he went full Babe Ruth as he became the first major leaguer since the Bambino, who had done so on June 13, 1921, to win a game, hit a homer and play centerfield in the same contest. He entered the game against the Philadelphia Philles trying to protect a 5-4 lead in the 7th inning, but gave up a game-tying homer to Jay Bruce. However, José Iglesias put the Reds back in front with a pinch homer in the bottom of the inning, and after Lorenzen had pitched a scoreless 8th, he came to bat in the bottom of the 8th a hit a two-run blast off Blake Parker, his first of the season. Closer Raisel Iglesias came in to pitch the 9th and Michael stayed in the game, playing centerfield, to complete a good day's work. He then capped off the week with the first game-ending hit of his career, a pinch double with two men on and one out in the 9th against T.J. McFarland of the Arizona Diamondbacks that drove in Jose Peraza with the winning run in a 4-3 win. An analyst pointed out that Lorenzen had been out-performing Ohtani over the past two years both on the mound and at the plate, although their usage pattern was quite different, with Lorenzen's exploits with the bat coming in a rather small sample size.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Zach Buchanan: "In the Name of the Father: The story behind Reds' pitcher Michael Lorenzen's famous home run", Cincinnati Enquirer, February 11, 2017. [1]
  • Alyson Footer: "Lorenzen achieves feat last done by Babe in '21: Reds relief pitcher earns the win, hits a home run, plays in field", mlb.com, September 5, 2019. [2]
  • Mark Sheldon: "Reds may play Lorenzen in OF during spring: Bell says there will be chances to get right-hander some at-bats, too", mlb.com, February 12, 2019. [3]
  • Mark Sheldon: "Lorenzen ready to pitch in 'every single game': Reds' DH pool could be large; Castillo gets live BP work", mlb.com, July 5, 2020. [4]

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