The Shohei Ohtani Show might have to make way for the Michael Lorenzen Show. That’s because Lorenzen, a full-time reliever and now part-time pinch-hitter for the Cincinnati Reds, is starting to look like Major League Baseball’s next two-way star.
In fact, he might even be developing into the National League’s version of Ohtani.
That’s no disrespect to Madison Bumgarner and Jake Arrieta. Both have long established themselves as ace pitchers who can also rake. But they’ll never have a real role as a two-way player. Lorenzen might with his pinch-hitting becoming more regular. The 26-year-old certainly made a strong case to continue in that role during Saturday’s 12-3 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.
With the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman turned to Lorenzen in the game’s biggest moment and was rewarded with a grand slam that cemented Cincinnati’s victory.
Lorenzen’s pinch-hit slam capped an eight-run Reds rally, and was the first grand slam by an MLB pitcher since all the way back on June 23, 2018.
OK, so that was only one week ago. Oddly enough, that was hit by another Reds pitcher, Anthony DeSclafani. Prior to that though, it had been nearly 59 years since a Reds pitcher hit a slam. Bob Purkey did it against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 1, 1959.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first pinch-hit grand slam by a primary pitcher since 1953.
Per our friends @EliasSports, Michael Lorenzen is the first batter whose primary position is pitcher to produce a pinch-hit grand slam since Tommy Byrne on May 16, 1953 for the White Sox at Yankees.
— Reds Media Relations (@RedsPR) July 1, 2018
Home run hitting machine
If there’s one thing keeping Lorenzen from having a stronger profile as a two-way player, it’s opportunity. He’s been limited to seven plate appearances this season, but he’s made each of the last five count.
In his last 5 plate apps RHP Michael Lorenzen has singled, homered (pinch hit), walked, homered and homered (pinch-hit grand slam). His 3 HR are the most by a Reds batter whose primary position is pitcher since Micah Owings had 3 homers in 2009.
— Reds Media Relations (@RedsPR) June 30, 2018
Overall, Lorenzen has five home runs and a .271/.292/.507 batting line through 65 career plate appearances. During his college days at Cal State Fullerton, Lorenzen was a .324 hitter with 11 homers over 596 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Ohtani has six homers and a .289/.372/.535 slashline through 129 MLB plate appearances. He was an MVP caliber hitter during his time in Nippon Professional Baseball.
Obviously Lorenzen’s not the all-around hitter Ohtani is, but it would be fun to see more of him at the dish.
Lorenzen spells relief
Pitching is Lorenzen’s main job, and this season he’s been pretty effective out of the bullpen. Since coming off the disabled list on May 22, Lorenzen has posted a 1.93 ERA over 23.1 innings. Granted, his 4.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 are not particularly good, but he’s getting outs that the Reds bullpen desperately needs.
Over four seasons, Lorenzen has appeared in 147 games as a pitcher (21 as a starter). His career ERA is 4.34 and K/9 is 7.4, so there’s likely some regression to come this season.
As for Ohtani, he looked exceptional as a pitcher to begin the season. Through nine starts, he went 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA over 49 innings. He struck out 61, walked 20 and looked like a difference maker if he could stay healthy.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t. Ohtani is sidelined from pitching due to a strained UCL in his pitching elbow. He’ll likely be limited to hitting duties only for the rest of this season, which has ruined one of the best stories in MLB. Ohtani’s absence might give Lorenzen a little more spotlight as a two-way player, but Japan’s Babe Ruth will keep his crown as MLB’s best for the foreseeable future.
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