CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds’ search for a new center fielder ended in the bullpen.
Pitcher Michael Lorenzen likely won’t be tabbed to start in center field, but the strong-armed right-hander will be called upon as a defensive replacement there on occasion, as he was last Thursday when he played two innings in Cincinnati’s 5-3 Opening Day victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“It’s not just a gimmick,” Lorenzen said. “We’re going to do this. They have confidence in me and I’m grateful for that.”
The versatile Lorenzen’s primary job is as a relief pitcher, although he made three starts last year, and he’s also an adept pinch-hitter and pinch-runner. Lorenzen, 27, went 4-2 with a 3.11 ERA last season. He also batted .290 with four home runs, 10 runs batted in and a 1.043 OPS (on-base average plus slugging percentage).
Selected out of Cal State-Fullerton in the supplemental round of the 2013 draft, 38th overall and two picks behind former Marshall University hurler Aaron Blair by Atlanta, Lorenzen was considered by many, if not most, scouts a better outfield prospect than a pitcher.
Baseball America’s pre-draft scouting report on him included, “If he hits, Lorenzen could be a star, because he is an outstanding defensive center fielder with a bazooka arm. He is a slightly above-average runner with superb instincts, translating to excellent range.
“A team that likes Lorenzen as a position player has a nice fallback of putting him on the mound if his bat doesn’t pan out.”
Lorenzen played both positions in college and his versatility deepens an already strong Reds bench. He said he actually throws pitches, such as sliders and cutters, when warming up in the outfield.
“It’s not new to me,” Lorenzen said of playing both ways. “I think I’ve made it pretty simple.”