Fresh off a sparkling 3 inning relief appearance on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen held little back in his postgame discussion with The Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan. Seeming decidedly unfazed by the perfect, unorthodox performance behind which he’d been the driving force, Lorenzen wasn’t resting on his laurels in the locker room; rather, he was busy dreaming much, much bigger.
"I will be back in the rotation one day," he said. "When that time comes, I will capitalize on that opportunity and I will take advantage of it. I will run with it and never look back."
Given how willing manager Bryan Price has been to experiment with the pitching roles with his current staff - and given how effective Lorenzen has been with the ball in his hands - it's hard to envision a world where that chance doesn't materialize, really. The perfect 3 IP spun by the fireballing righty on Monday night was electric, to be sure, but it also came under circumstances rarely viewed in the modern baseball world. That Lorenzen, who was originally brought up as a starting pitcher, could throw 30 some pitches and get 9 outs wasn't wholly surprising - heck, reliever Wade LeBlanc was busy getting 16 outs for the opposition; however, that Price turned to Lorenzen in the 3rd inning to protect a 4-run lead with the bases loaded and also stick around to pitch for another pair of innings truly jumped off the page.
In essence, Lorenzen played the role of both high-leverage fireman and extended long reliever, and was marvelous in the role. That begs an obvious question, too: if Bryan Price trusts Lorenzen to get that many outs, is OK using him as early in the game as the 3rd inning, and acknowledges that games can be won or lost in big spots that early in the game, how's that any different than trusting a guy to start a game altogether?
Lorenzen, you'll remember, was a supplemental 1st round draft pick by the Reds back in 2013 out of Cal-State Fullerton, at the time a star CF and one-pitch closer with as much pitching polish as a dried-out penny loafer. That didn't deter the Reds from both seeing him as a potential starting pitcher and fast-tracking him to the majors, and in 2015 he was already tasked with starting 21 big league games after having thrown only 202 total minor league innings. A 113.1 big league innings of 5.40 ERA ball and a forearm strain later, Lorenzen was kicked to the back of the bullpen for the final few months of 2016, and he settled in as a versatile, multi-inning reliever to some pretty impressive acclaim.
In other words, for the Reds to doom him to the bullpen for good before he's even arbitration eligible would be every bit the harried, snap decision that pushing him to the majors in the first place seemed to be, not to mention rather incongruous. And if it takes Lorenzen both dominating in extended relief roles and being vocal about his desire to get back into the starting rotation for the Reds to take notice, well, I'm all for that, 100%. If anything, it might well show the likes of Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed that there's a lot more competition for those coveted rotation spots that once might've seen like givens to them, and a little extra competition might be what they need.
Reed, to his credit, might've already taken notice, as he piggy-backed Lorenzen's outing last night with 3 perfect innings of his own. Add-in Wandy Peralta's easy 1-2-3 9th inning, and the Reds combined for 7 perfect innings of relief for the first time in modern Cincinnati Reds history, as Jamie Ramsey noted at Better Off Red.
In other news, apparently 6 games of .852 OPS ball was enough for one Pittsburgh-based MLB.com reporter to ask Price about Joey Votto being in a 'slump' prior to Monday's game, which is bogus as all hell. He was also on pace to hit 54 homers on the season and owned a 1.038 OPS in the 5 games not started by Jeremy Hellickson - who has owned Votto throughout his career and should thereby not be considered a factor for Votto 'slumping.' Honestly, I can't believe I just wasted my time talking about what a waste of time that question and consideration was in the first place.
In other other news, I haven't had a pizza in roughly 16 hours, which one Pittsburgh-based MLB.com reporter will probably take to mean that I've given up on eating them entirely after having consumed upwards of 1500 career pizzas in the course of my lifetime.
Perhaps lost in the shuffle from Monday's great efforts in bullpenning was Brandon Finnegan's rough, abbreviated outing. After opening the year with 7 innings of 9 K shutout ball against the Philadelphia Phillies last week, Finnegan struggled mightily on Monday, walking 5 and allowing a run in just 2 IP (and throwing 69 pitches to get just those 6 outs). He did hit 97 mph with a sinker, however, and continued to show the kind of velocity and movement on his pitches that had FanGraphs' Eno Sarris so excited about Finnegan before the season and in a breakdown article last week. Location issues aside, there was still plenty that Finny showed in a bad outing on Monday that should have you plenty excited about the still 23-year old.
Finally, the first week of the season has been rather good for former Red Jay Bruce. He's cranked 4 dingers, has walked twice as many times as he's struck out, and sits atop the MLB leaderboards in both ISO and fWAR at the moment. It's OK to still get excited when Hot Jay gets hot.