CINCINNATI -- The idea of Michael Lorenzen being a two-way player as both a reliever and center fielder this season wasn’t just a Spring Training experiment. It was put into use during Thursday’s Opening Day win vs. the Pirates when Lorenzen pinch-ran in the seventh inning and played the final
CINCINNATI -- The idea of Michael Lorenzen being a two-way player as both a reliever and center fielder this season wasn’t just a Spring Training experiment. It was put into use during Thursday’s Opening Day win vs. the Pirates when Lorenzen pinch-ran in the seventh inning and played the final two innings in center field.
Manager David Bell also considered Lorenzen available to pitch that game, if needed. He isn’t afraid to use him in both spots during the same game.
“We got to a certain point in the game where if he did pitch, it would’ve been later, potentially in extra innings or maybe after a couple of other pitchers were used,” Bell said on Saturday. “We got to a certain point where I felt like it was safe to go ahead and use him as a pinch-runner, as an outfielder. He is still available as a pitcher at that point, being in the game.”
Lorenzen, who logged one regular season inning in right field last season, was very pleased with how he was utilized, and the way he will be throughout 2019.
“I didn’t get any fly balls. Other than that, it was perfect,” Lorenzen said. “It was exactly what we talked about. It’s not a little gimmick. We’re actually going to do this. I’m grateful for the confidence that they put in me. They constantly reassure me: ‘It’s not like you’re trying out for this. We believe in you already and we know you can do this. Be ready Game 1.’ And in Game 1, the opportunity arose."
Lorenzen has two-way playing experience from college, when he was the center fielder and closer for Cal-State Fullerton. The Reds selected him in the compensation balance A portion of the 2013 Draft with the plan to make him solely a starting pitcher.
If he were called on to pitch while in center field, Lorenzen would have to do it without any warming up in the bullpen. But he didn’t believe it would take long for him to get ready.
“Not long at all. I think with me running in the outfield, the adrenaline is kind of flowing, I’m in the game,” he said. “I felt really good just throwing to Scott [Schebler in left field]. I was throwing some sinkers. I told him, ‘Hey, this is going to be a real thing. I’m going to be throwing you some sinkers, cutters, curveballs, changeups and stuff just to make sure that when they do call me that I’m ready to go.’”
Schebler is going to be the Reds' regular center fielder and can shift to a corner spot if Lorenzen is used in the field, like he did in Thursday’s 5-3 win. Would Bell consider starting Lorenzen in center field?
That appears to be less likely.
“I wouldn’t say that I would not consider that,” Bell said. “Right now, with our outfield being a strength of our team, it’s not something that would happen immediately. It’s not something I’ve thought a lot about. But I would not rule that out either.”
Left field situation not a platoon
On Thursday, Jesse Winker started in left field and Matt Kemp was scheduled to take over there on Saturday before the game was rained out. Winker is a left-handed hitter and Kemp is right-handed, and all three Pirates starting pitchers in the series are right-handed.
Bell is trying to keep all four outfielders engaged.
“We’re going to need everybody, especially here early on,” Bell said. “I need to find ways to get everybody starts. I wouldn’t call it a platoon or anything like that. To me, it’s just trying to get everybody as much playing time as possible and try to do it the best we can based on the matchups.”
Winker, who is expected to get regular at-bats in some form this season, showed no concern about how much he will be used.
“Wherever I’m asked to play, I will play,” Winker said. “I’ve got some reps in center field. I think that’s another spot on the field where I can play. I come in every day and if I’m in the lineup, I prepare. If not, I prepare to affect the game in some ways.”
For the first time since 2013, the Reds did not have a single rookie on their Opening Day roster. The team’s average age is 28.8 years old. In 2018, the club had the second-youngest Opening Day roster with the average at 27.196 years old. In 2017, the club’s roster was the youngest in the Majors while averaging 26 years and 355 days, and the team carried seven rookies.
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.