On Saturday, Reds’ manager Jim Riggleman announced that Michael Lorenzen would get the starting nod against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday. This will be Lorenzen’s first start since September 16, 2015, his rookie season. In that start, he allowed three runs in three innings and has only pitched out of the bullpen since.
When the Reds drafted the hybrid outfielder and closer out of Cal State Fullerton, the plan was to convert him into a starter. The Reds like drafting closers with hopes of converting them to starters. Their first round pick in 2014 was a closer as well, Nick Howard out of the University of Virginia. That plan did not pan out for Howard, as he now finds himself in Daytona, purely pitching out of the bullpen.
It appeared that it did not work out for Lorenzen either, but the Reds appear to possibly be giving him another shot. It is unclear if this will be a permanent reboot of the Lorenzen experiment, or just a spot start from a pitcher they know can carry a heavier workload than most relievers.
The Lorenzen Experiment: Part One
In Lorenzen’s rookie campaign, he made 21 starts, as well as six appearances out of the bullpen. Four of his six bullpen outings came in his last four games of the season, with two mixed in May.
As a rookie, Lorenzen had to prove himself if he wanted to have a chance to earn a spot in the rotation for the following season. He started off looking like maintaining his rotation spot was something he had the ability to do.
After his first six starts, Lorenzen had an earned run average as low as 3.29, but should have been lower. One of his two appearances out of the bullpen is what caused that number, as he allowed three runs in two innings. His ERA rose to 4.01 after another poor outing, where he gave up six runs, five earned, against the San Diego Padres in his second June start.
Lorenzen was able to recover from his poor start, with two starts of two-run baseball, one for six innings followed by a seven-inning gem. He would continue to look like a future starter for the Reds for most of July.
The Beginning of the End
But on July 20, the wheels began to fall off. It was not a completely terrible start, but he did allow four runs and 10 baserunners in just five innings of work.
In his next five starts, he allowed run totals of eight, five, three, seven and five. His ERA in July was 8.61. In his three August starts, his ERA was a whopping 12.27. His next two starts he only allowed two runs in each, but allowed nine baserunners in 5 1/3 innings, followed by 11 baserunners in just five innings. In the final start of his career before this upcoming Tuesday, he allowed three runs in just three innings while allowing seven runners to reach base.
That was all she wrote for the Lorenzen starting experiment, or so we thought.
The Lorenzen Experiment: Part Two
The Lorenzen start could not come against a better team. While the Brewers have big bats in Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Jesus Aguilar and Mike Moustakas, Lorenzen has pitched well against the Brewers outside of a forgettable August 29 outing.
The fun part about Lorenzen getting the nod against the Brewers will be watching him hopefully get multiple at-bats if he can stay in the game long enough. In four at-bats against the Brewers, he has three home runs, including a grand slam and a three-run long ball.
The Brewers pitchers have not allowed opposing pitchers to hit a home run in 2018, aside from Lorenzen’s three. Excluding Lorenzen, in 268 at-bats they have only allowed 28 hits and 10 extra base hits, all doubles. For some reason, the Brewers have not been able to figure him out.
What to Expect?
Despite Lorenzen’s offensive success against Milwaukee, there is a strong possibility we will not see Lorenzen step up to the plate three times, or even two. If the Reds offense can wake the bats up early then he might get the chances, but Riggleman is known to have a quick hook.
With Tuesday’s start being Lorenzen’s first since September 16, 2015, it is possible he will not get the opportunity to pitch past the fifth inning, regardless of how strong he is pitching.
If Lorenzen has a decent to a solid performance against the Brewers, the Lorenzen experiment should continue throughout the rest of the season and into Spring Training. The Reds goal in the offseason should still be to land their pitching, but could give him an opportunity to join the rotation.
They say in life too much of a good thing can be too much. This is not one of those times, load up and get as much of that good thing as they can.
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