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Reds P Michael Lorenzen says he could be starter and play field on off days

By
Alex Butler
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen walks through the dugout prior to facing the Miami Marlins on Thursday at Marlins Park in Miami. Photo courtesy of Tony Capobianco
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen walks through the dugout prior to facing the Miami Marlins on Thursday at Marlins Park in Miami. Photo courtesy of Tony Capobianco

MIAMI, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- He relishes the opportunity to do more. Michael Lorenzen wants to be groundbreaking -- perhaps 'notorious' -- and he's on a path to reach his goals, even if it means toeing the rubber a little less frequently.

The Cincinnati Reds pitcher isn't just his position, he is also one of the best-hitting hurlers in Major League Baseball. Most of his pitching appearances are out of the bullpen. But when he has had the chance to see the ball from the other side of the plate, he is hitting nearly .300. He also has four home runs.

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And that is a conundrum.

Does Lorenzen have more value in his role as a relief pitcher with rare plate appearances or would he be better utilized as a full-time position player? Could he be moved into the rotation and play in the field on his four off days?

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Lorenzen says yes to the latter. He also says the thought of having multiple roles would "simplify everything."

"I think that we have yet to explore if there is a mind that works best in doing multiple roles," Lorenzen said before the Reds faced the Marlins on Thursday at Marlins Park in Miami.

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"We instantly assume that the multiple role thing will take away from something else, but what if it actually is good for that person's mindset to have multiple roles because it simplifies everything for them?"

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Lorenzen, 26, was a respected hitting prospect coming out of Cal State Fullerton. His scouting report included a Ryan Braun comparison and lauded his ability to cover gap-to-gap in the outfield while saying he had a "plus arm."

The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Anaheim native said that playing on both sides of the plate has refreshed his mind. When he is at the plate, it gives him an insight about how pitchers attack him and what it's like to be on the other end of a high fastball, inside offering or looping curveball.

He said he came into the 2018 season "ready to hit."

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That mentality paid off immediately as he had a stretch with three home runs in three consecutive at-bats at the end of June. This season he also logged the hardest hit by a pitcher since Statcast began tracking in 2015, smacking a 116.5-mph single against the Colorado Rockies.

"With getting to pinch hit here and there, you just hope to be seeing the ball well at the right time. That kinda happened to me for that streak for that week. Seeing the ball really well, my timing was good and I was capitalizing on those opportunities. And it has opened the door for more opportunities."

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Lorenzen said he has been working extremely hard on his approach and other aspects of his offensive game with Reds assistant hitting coach Tony Jaramillo.

While his long ball pace obviously flickered away, Lorenzen continued to rake with regularity for a very respectable average, but he remained a relief pitcher. He saw increased appearances as a pinch hitter and enjoyed the idea of being spontaneously called upon.

"Running back and forth from the dugout to the bullpen ... it's not very easy to do," Lorenzen said. "I love that stuff. I really love it. For me it just keeps my mind free and I enjoy it. I enjoy being active and having different jobs to do."

In July, Reds manager Jim Riggleman said the team didn't have "any thoughts or plans" to discuss a different role for Lorenzen.

Before Thursday's game, the Reds skipper said he could see Lorenzen playing the outfield as part of a double switch in the future.

"We really don't even talk about it that much," Riggleman told reporters. "I think we all kind of know he could do it, but if you're trying to put him in the outfield, we've got say [Jesse] Winker or [Scott] Schebler out there. They are pretty good. They can hit so are you really gaining anything there?"

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Lorenzen took the mound as a starter on Tuesday for the first time since 2015. He allowed one unearned run and one hit, while issuing a walk, three strikeouts and hitting a batter on 52 pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Training and thinking like Conor McGregor

There aren't many players in the game that do what Lorenzen envisions when he says he could start and play in the field. Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Othtani is a fantastic hitter while also being a starting pitcher, but he is written into the designated hitter spot when he isn't pitching.

Lorenzen thinks that there could be more two-way players in the future. There aren't many out there now on the baseball diamond, so a lot of his inspiration comes from his trainer Ido Portal, who specializes in "movement culture."

"He talks about not being such a specialist," Lorenzen said. "He talks about how being a specialist is where you create injury ... And doing the same thing over and over again and being more well rounded."

"So I train in different ways to be capable of doing more and more things with my body."

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Lorenzen trains in the offseason with Portal, who also trains UFC star Conor "The Notorious' McGregor. The Reds pitcher found Portal through a lot of research. He said his teammates like to laugh about the outside of the box thinking, but his body and mind feel great as a result of the training.

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