MILWAUKEE -- This season, Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen has worked in short relief, long relief, has been a pinch-hitter extraordinaire, a pinch-runner and even played in right field for one inning. But the role he really longed for, and didn't get to do in 2018, was that of starting pitcher.Lorenzen
MILWAUKEE -- This season, Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen has worked in short relief, long relief, has been a pinch-hitter extraordinaire, a pinch-runner and even played in right field for one inning. But the role he really longed for, and didn't get to do in 2018, was that of starting pitcher.
Lorenzen finally got his chance on Tuesday vs. the Brewers and didn't squander the opportunity with four well-pitched innings during Cincinnati's 3-1 win at Miller Park. Making a start for the first time since his 2015 rookie season, he allowed one unearned run with one hit, one walk, three strikeouts and hit a batter while throwing 52 pitches. After the game, he maintained his desire to start -- full time -- but also continue to be versatile and perhaps become a National League version of Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani.
"It's something I would love to do," Lorenzen said. "For me, I feel it opens a lot of doors for me, as well, especially using me however you need for the next four days after a start. You can use me however you want to and get creative that way. I don't want to use it as an excuse, but it my second year full-time pitching [in 2015] was in the big leagues. I don't think that door should be shut quite yet."
Interim manager Jim Riggleman set a limit of 50-60 pitches before the outing, and Lorenzen certainly made a compelling case to get another inning having retired the final seven Brewers he faced. On the top step of the dugout after the fourth inning, Lorenzen spent a few moments lobbying Riggleman to let him have one more frame.
"He really did a good job. He had a lot of bullets left, too," Riggleman said. "That was nice how fresh he felt when he came out. We were going to limit him to 50 or 60, but we really didn't want him to get up and down enough times to go back out for the fifth."
After an unearned run scored on a Jonathan Schoop single in the second inning, five of the final seven outs Lorenzen recorded came on routine ground balls. According to Statcast™, the contact against the right-hander was mostly weak. The Brewers' average exit velocity against him was 78.9 mph and it topped out at 99.5 mph.
"When Jim told me my pitch count yesterday, I told him like, 'Man, everything I throw has to be over the plate tomorrow if I'm going to do anything.'" Lorenzen said. "That was kind of my approach, just early in the count, make sure I'm attacking and know which guys like to expand the zone and try to take advantage of it."
After Lorenzen exited, Sal Romano followed with 2 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win. Amir Garrett, David Hernandez and Raisel Iglesias then combined for 2 2/3 hitless innings.
The scheduled starting pitcher usually takes the later bus to the ballpark on game day. But on Tuesday, Lorenzen arrived on the first bus and stuck to the routine he usually has as a reliever. He stretched with the other relievers and played catch with Hernandez.
Lorenzen even dispensed with the starting-pitcher pattern of playing catch in the outfield before warming up in the bullpen prior to the national anthem. The confidence to make such a decision came from his meticulous journal keeping that tells him how his body felt when he warmed up as a reliever vs. how he did it as a starter.
"For me, it just works. It's unique for sure," Lorenzen said. "I don't know of anyone else who does it. But what's helped me is with all of this change in baseball, it's shown that we don't have it figured out. I don't need to all of a sudden become this ideal starting pitcher and do this routine that all the starting pitchers do, because it's shown we don't have it all figured out.
"I want to do what I know makes me feel good. If that makes me successful, that's fine. It's given me confidence to do that without looking over my shoulder."
As a rookie, Lorenzen was 4-9 with a 5.45 ERA in 21 starts. He didn't become a professional starting pitcher until 2014 in the Minors. In the three years since while working out of the bullpen, he has continued to evolve as a pitcher.
"Trying to learn on the fly," Lorenzen said. "Just experience and knowing that I'm going to put the work in, I just trust the fact that I'm going to grow. I got my teeth kicked in a lot [as a starter], but just being able to look at that as opportunities to better myself as a pitcher, I've allowed that to happen. I'm not anywhere near where I want to be."
The Reds have another opening in the rotation for Sunday at Miami, and all signs are pointing to Lorenzen getting another crack.
"I hope they give me another shot, for sure," Lorenzen said. "I'll definitely talk to Jim about it. I know I feel good."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Reds gave Lorenzen a quick lead in the top of the first inning when Scott Schebler opened with a single on the first pitch of the game and the next batter, Jose Peraza, hit a 3-1 fastball from Chase Anderson for a two-run home run to left-center field. It extended Peraza's career high to 13 home runs. He has eight in his last 42 games after five over his first 106.
"I tried to put my best swing on the ball," Peraza said. "I am using my legs more, and I've been working on it with [hitting coaches] Tony [Jaramillo] and Don Long."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Billy Hamilton got the night off, but Mason Williams made a tremendous defensive play in his place in center field. In the sixth inning with one out, Curtis Granderson lifted a long fly ball to the deepest part of the ballpark. Williams tracked the ball perfectly and made a nice running over-the-shoulder catch before hitting the wall. According to Statcast™, Williams ran an even 100 feet to make the play.
HE SAID IT
"I had a great time out there. I know Jim wanted me to be able to go out there some more. Due to circumstances and stuff, he had to take me out, which is totally fine. We got the 'W' and that's all that matters." -- Lorenzen
Cincinnati's three-game series concludes at 7:40 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Miller Park with Matt Harvey pitching for the Reds against Milwaukee lefty Giovany Gonzalez. In his last seven starts for Cincinnati, Harvey is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA, but he hasn't fared well this season against the Brewers, registering a 5.52 ERA in three starts.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.