When the spring began there was talk of using Michael Lorenzen as a position player. In spring training he spent time on the backfields in minor league camp getting extra at-bats. The plan seemed to be to still use him mainly as a reliever, but to work him in games as a pinch hitter and a defensive replacement at times. Many believed, and still do, that he’s the best defensive center fielder on the team.

But when the season began that didn’t really play out. He pitched, and, well, he pitched. By the end of April he had two pinch hit appearances. And he did play a few innings in the outfield. What he didn’t do much of was hit, though. The at-bats completely dried up in May. Despite playing in 16 games he had one trip to the plate. In 12 games during June he also had one entire plate appearance. During July he made two appearances as a hitter – in both cases he hit for himself as a pitcher. August saw him step up to the plate five times, with three of those opportunities coming when he hit for himself.

But when Nick Senzel injured his shoulder early in September David Bell began to work Michael Lorenzen into the lineup as an outfielder some more. On September 5th he got his first start. A week later he would come in as a replacement outfielder and get three at-bats. Between September 14th and 18th he started four of the five games the Reds played in center.

This all seems to be a little bit too late, though. Why is it too late? Major League Baseball has some rule changes coming next year. It seems the one everyone is aware of and talking about is about the 3-batter minimum for a reliever. That’s going to eliminate the LOOGY from baseball. It’s purpose is to try and cut down on so many pitching changes that are slowing the game down. Whether it works or not, we’ll all find out together.

But one of the lesser talked about rule revolves around the allowed roster construction in 2020. The roster is expanding to 26 players next year. With the way the game has been going it would seem that teams would just go ahead and carry another pitcher. Major League Baseball doesn’t want teams to just load up on pitchers. And to avoid teams playing games, they are making it so players must be designated as either a pitcher or a position player. Or a player can be designated as a two-way player, but there’s a catch. To qualify for that a player must have pitched 20 innings and started at least 20 games as a position player/designated hitter the year before, and at least three plate appearances in those games.

There aren’t many guys in baseball who can do both. But Michael Lorenzen seemed like he could be one of those players. The Reds even seemed like they planned to use him that way. But with how he was used, or not used in 2019, he can not be designated as a two-way player for roster purposes in 2020. Love it or hate it, that hamstrings the way that the Reds could have used their additional roster spot next year and given them more flexibility than any other team in the National League.

This won’t stop Cincinnati from using Michael Lorenzen as a fielder or hitter in 2020. There are no rules that say a pitcher can’t be used as a position player. There are rules that dictate when a position player can pitch, though. But the Reds may have missed the boat throughout the year when it comes to finding a way to get Lorenzen 2-3 starts in the field a month to qualify him for next year as a two-way player and given themselves a little more creativity with roster construction moving forward.

40 Responses

  1. MARK MOORE

    It’s a problem for 2020 based on the rules. Seems like NL teams at least should get an exception, but riles id rules.

    • MARK MOORE

      Rules is rules.

      Stupid small keyboard.

      • Al Hicks

        Am I surprised that Bell wasn’t incisive on this, didn’t think ahead? Nada.

    • jim walker

      I agree the rules seem to favor the DH league. With the requirement that pitchers face at least 3 batters (unless they end an inning at less than 3), it would not surprise me if some AL teams go as low as 11 pitchers even if the limit is higher (most speculation is it will be 12)

      Then there is issue that a pitcher like Lorenzen (or Ohtani etc) can be plugged into the DH slot a couple of times a week and achieve 2 way status by the end of May (see my comment below> I interpret the 2 way rule differently that Doug presented it and believe 2 way status can be achieved within a season).

      • MBS

        I think your right, that you can obtain it during the season. We will see for sure soon. Also the whole DH thing is ridiculous to obtain two way status. It’s more like 1 and 1/2 status, instead.

        Yes, the Reds completely mishandled the opportunity it had with Lorenzen in 19. Even if Jim is correct about obtaining the status during the season, it will be several months before it would happen.

  2. PUSHERMAN

    Probably, but it really doesn’t matter. This club tried to take a shortcut and now are in a position where they cannot compete without miracles happening.
    Gutted the farm, traded 4 top 10 prospects, and the ones left over are either injured or just not producing and never will at an impact level.
    That combined with what is already on the major league roster simply cannot compete with all the talent on about 18 other teams. Think about it, a team that gutted the farm, had remarkable rotation health, and had a guy hit like Babe Ruth for a month will finish nearly 10 games under 500…..with no way of adding enough talent to compete with the top half of the league.
    Just to add insult to injury, nearly every player traded or dumped by theReds is on an upward trend.
    Long has a higher OPS then Senzel, who was supposed to be the savior. Now we will be lucky if he is ever healthy enough to play 120 games.
    Bailey will start a playoff game and he was dumped along with what would be two top 5 prospects for, well, what amounts to nothing.
    Just things that remind you why this has been the worst run franchise since 2000.
    For the FO’s sake, thank goodness the Cincy media either doesn’t care or doesn’t have the backbone to press them on some issues or bring any of this to light for the casual fan.

  3. Shchi Cossack

    It’s not the rules, it’s the lack of foresight and initiative to put the team in position to take advantage of the rules. Once again, the Reds as an organization are late to the party. Bell makes out the lineups and playing decisions. This ‘oversight’ falls squarely and solely in his lap. Rather than being preoccupied with his platoon fetish and double switch shenanigans, a simple commitment to just occasional plying time as a CF when he was unavailable to pitch was all that was necessary. This rule was not a conspiracy kept restricted from the collective consciousness of MLB managers, coaches and administrators (not to mention players and fans) until it magically appeared after September 1st. the Reds (specifically Bell) simply ignored the rule change for the 2020 season that was clearly published prior to the 2019 season opening day.

    • Colorado Red

      Shchi,
      This is basically what I was thinking (but you said it better).
      Late to the party again.
      Should have been looking a Mike as a two way player several years ago.

    • jim walker

      Agree. The story will probably be they were trying to get into the playoff this year but…..

    • jim walker

      Also I’ll go you one further Cossack. Why wasn’t the entire bullpen managed in line with the rules as they will be in 2020?

    • Doc

      Before I blame Bell for this, I would need to know what management instructed Bell to do. I doubt this was strictly a Bell decision.

      • jim walker

        I agree about Bell. This was (or should have been) a strategic decision, not a matter of in game or game to game tactics.

      • Mason Red

        I also agree about Bell. He’s been labeled as a bad manager but my argument has been we really don’t know. That’s because we don’t know what he’s told by FO who are told by ownership. He also has to play the players he has including those who are basically bench players.

    • RojoBenjy

      Jim Walker made this point a few months ago. Would have been easy to get him 20 starts in the outfield—had they started doing it before there were only 20 games left is the season.

      Kudos, Jim.

  4. Reaganspad

    Wow, I am sure you shard this before Doug, but what a missed opportunity for a team going nowhere in 2019.

    The other plan is to Start Lorenzen to take advantage of his bat. I am still in this camp because he does not get enough innings or AB’s the way they are using him today

    • Lackey W

      Sorry but I am no fan of Lorenzen being a position player. Reds have better players on the bench when Lorenzen is in the outfield.

  5. AirborneJayJay

    Roster construction and roster management has long been a deficient area with the Reds front office and management. This oversight by them is not surprising at all. In a division where 90 wins will likely win a division title over the next few years, every little advantage helps. That the Reds front office and management neglected to set themselves up for this advantage, speaks pretty accurately about the Reds shortcomings in the front office and field manager. Since that field manager has an office next door to the GM and POBO and is considered almost like an assistant GM. Par for the course in Cincinnati Reds baseball. But don’t fret, there will be a new beer garden somewhere in GABP next year and a new food ordering app for phones. Never mind about improving the product on the field. It is all about improving the fan experience, for the few that actually do show up for games.
    Maybe the Dodgers have some more bums to pawn off on the Reds front office this winter for some more MLB top-100 prospects.

  6. jim walker

    My understanding is that it will also be possible to qualify a guy as a two way player during an ongoing season based on appearances within that season:

    https://www.mlb.com/news/mlb-rules-changes

    Note that the linked article says that a player must be designated as a pitcher or position player and that designation cannot be changed within a season. However in the next section, it talks about two way players and says:
    “A player can only qualify for this designation (2 way) if he accrues (minimum qualifying PAs/ IP rules)… in either the current or the prior season”

    However the bar as announced is very high and rigid. I hope that it gets modified so a guy like Lorenzen gets two way credit for every PA when he isn’t pitching whether or not he started the game. For instance, in a recent game, ML was subbed in as an PH, stayed in as an OF and subsequently got 3 PAs. Under the current rules, none of them would count toward 2 way status. This doesn’t seem right to me.

    • Doug Gray

      Jim, that’s not how the rule was originally presented, so perhaps it’s being worded differently. But even if this is the case, he’s not going to get 20 starts in the field before, what, at best midseason next year? It’s still a mistake that the organization made this year to hamstring themselves for next year.

  7. RC

    Since he claims to be a better outfielder than a pitcher, and everyone days he’s the best CFer on the team, and since Senzel has proven to be an injury-prone average player and not the superstar he was predicted to be, it would behoove the Reds to seriously consider making Lorenzen a permanent outfielder and ditch the pitching.

    • jim walker

      I believe Nick Senzel will still be a big star if he can stay on the field. Look at what Eric Davis accomplished. Davis is likely not in the National Hall of Fame because of the time he missed with injuries; but, he was still a franchise star and is in the team hall of fame.

      But yes the “if” is getting bigger with each succeeding injury. Recall Austin Kearns.

    • Indy Red Man

      He’s the best “defensive” CFer on the team. Now suddenly facing major league pitching on a regular basis at 27 could be another story. He’s got the bat speed, but just needs to lay off the garbage breaking pitches w/2 strikes. Duvall could never do it. Its not easy. Maybe play him vs LHP only and avoid the slider from righties.

      I would make Lorenzen the 5th starter and probably bat him 6th, while also giving him a start in the field between starts as well as pinch-hitting, pinch-running, and defensive substitutions.

      He’s started to develop the change-up in the 2nd half this year and its helped him because everything was 90+ previously. His era since June is 2.43 with only 3 hrs in 37 ip. Thats promising! I’d start him and expect 5-6 innings with 2-3 runs and occasionally he’ll drive in some runs to counter some of that. Thats a solid 5th starter and more innings out of a premium arm then they’re getting now!

      • RojoBenjy

        He never got a chance to hone his bat in the minors.

        If the Reds want him to be a bat, I would think he’d have to go down to work on it.

      • jim walker

        Jeff Brantley offered up his opinion about ML as a 2 way player the other night. He thinks the pitching side has to be as a reliever because the physical stress of being a starting pitcher and playing CF substantially in between would eventually break a person down. He didn’t go where NL folks are not allowed to, i.e. how it might work if a guy were DH and rotation starter.

      • Curt

        I believe Rick Ankiel went down for a whole season (or 2?) before returning as an outfielder and he was a good hitting pitcher as well? If the plan is to make Lorenzen primarily an outfielder, I think it’s silly to assume he wouldn’t have to go to Louisville for a decent chunk of time to work on his “holes” cuz they’ll find them. Honestly, I’m not all that interested in another CF experiment and maybe this rule stuff wasn’t overlooked by the FO, maybe they have a different plan? In any event, he’s not the CF for 2020 nor do I believe is Nick Senzel. They need to find one, a real one, ASAP.
        IMHO of course.

  8. TR

    Lorenzen is still in his prime. Walking the fence is not going to work. Either make him a part of the starting eight, or let him concentrate on pitching.

  9. jim walker

    Here is the Reds CF depth chart (without Lorenzen) as I see it. Senzel (if and when he is healthy enough); Brian O’Grady; Phillip Ervin or Jesse Winker (don’t laugh they actually used him there); Jose Siri (if and when ready).

    Doesn’t this have to figure into the decision of how to use Lorenzen if they don’t trade for or sign somebody else?

    • RedNat

      Jim you are really on a role today with some good points. I like your comparison of Eric Davis to Nick Senzel. i think we have to wrap our head around the fact that Senzel (and Winker) may only be able to play 110-120 games a year but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be effective players.

      I am still hoping that Jose Siri can continue to develop and eventaully be the everyday centerfielder for the Reds because that would solve a lot of problems. he did have a few good games the last week in Louisville so I am hoping that momentum will carry over. this will allow us to move Senzel into the infield and allow Lorenzen to just focus on pitching.

    • MBS

      I don’t disagree with your depth chart, but if the Reds are to really compete in 2020 they need to acquire a CF. Not that, that’s all they need, but it’s one of the top 3 concerns.
      1 C
      2 Bullpen 1 or 2 arms
      3 CF

      • Curt

        Looks about right and they need to be studs at that. Who could they get?

  10. Old-school

    So Lorenzen can do anything in 2020, it’s just presumably MLB will only allow 13 pitchers on a roster so had ML started 20 games, he could be designated a 2 way player and thus the Reds could have 14 pitchers instead of 13?

    Seems to me the # of PA Lorenzen has in 2019 should qualify him. Lots of utility guys and catchers rarely start but they are still position players. The definition of position player seems arbitrary. 100 PA should qualify you. That also also doesn’t take into account injuries- Ohtani hasn’t pitched in 2019 so he can’t be a 2 way player either in 2020?

  11. BK

    I disagree with the overall assessment that the Reds missed an opportunity. No NL team will meet the 20-start threshold…it’s too high. This is a rule that favors the AL.

    Who would Lorenzen have started in place of: Senzel, Puig, Winker, Ervin, Aquino, VanMeter? Do we really think Lorenzen is a better hitter than any of these? Would starting Lorenzen earlier in the season have put the Reds in the best position to win this year? Doubtful.

    Like many, I have been mystified to see Lorenzen PH for only to see the Reds run out of position players towards the end of games. I agree a good argument can be made that the Reds failed to capitalize on Lorenzen’s talent as a defensive CF, base runner and hitter.

    In short, the rule doesn’t provide a realistic option for a two-way player in the NL. It’s awfully easy to fault the Reds front office following so many dreadful seasons. But you can’t miss an opportunity unless the opportunity is practically achievable. Unless the rule changes, it is impractical, even with a player as multi-talented as Lorenzen.

  12. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I’m not as concerned about this. It would have been neat to see Lorenzen do something like this. But, I’m not worried. “Just Win, Baby.”

  13. Charles) Lackey

    Reds don’t win because front office will not sigh top players especially hitters of late. Reds do need 1 more top starting pitcher. Spend the money Reds or its always last place.

  14. Roger Garrett

    Our beloved Reds are prone to be a day late and a dollar short.Most of us had issues with Price,Dusty and now Bell regarding lineups and in game managing.One has to think that the manger gets input as to who plays and at what position based on the overall plan for the team and the individual but once the game starts its all his.This makes perfect sense and is a logical way to run any team.However the individual plans seem to rarely make sense.Acquino game up and was put in right immediately while JVM has played multiple positions even after Scooter left and DD was benched.I could go on and on with this but it is obvious Lorenzen was to pitch and be a pinch hitter only and know thought even with the rules known was given of how it could have helped in 2020.As its already been said,any advantage we could have gained going in to next year has now been lost.Its just who the Reds are but slowly I feel we are beginning to think and act like a major league organization.Hard to go from being the laughing stock of the league to actually be respected as a top run team without a few chuckles along the way.

  15. Don

    The rule is that the pitchers on the 26 man rosters will have a cap (not-announced # yet).

    Only players which are declared pitchers can pitch unless the games is in extra innings or if their is a 6 or more run difference in the score when the player starts pitching.

    To pitch in 20202, Ohtani will have to be declared a pitcher. He can hit anytime as a declared pitcher. Pitcher can hit/play field at any time.

    Ohtani can be declared a 2 way player in 2020 after he pitches 20 innings in 2020.

    This means that after 3 or 4 starts he can be declared a 2 way players and the angels will then be able to add another pitcher to the 26 man roster as Ohtani will no longer count as a pitcher towards the cap.

    The AL teams do have an advantage with this rule with the DH. This is another way where the players association is trying to do away with pitchers hitting.

    The Reds (or any NL team) would need to have the pitcher play the field 20 games and get at least 3 ABs in each of those games.

    The Reds missed the opportunity in April when Schebler was playing every day and struggling badly before Senzel was called up to get Lorenzen the playing time.

    RIght or wrong that decision must have been made before the season by the entire management team to not attempt to take advantage of the rule with Lorenzen for 2020.

    The goal of the rule is to add a better offensive position player when the roster expands to 26 and not have the teams add a 14 pitcher and only have a 4 man bench.

    If the rumor of 13 pitchers being in the number is true, does a team really need 14 pitchers and 12 position players.

    Without Lorenzen going to AAA and getting 200 to 400 ABs and see what happens (1/2 to a full season). He will be an above average hitting pitcher but he will not be even an average position player hitter.

    Keep him as a late inning defensive replacement, pinch runner and pinch hitter for pitchers.

    He is one of the few (if not the only) Red in the bullpen whom can go 2 innings with success on a consistent basis and that his value to the 2020 and future Reds.

    I do not think the Reds missed an opportunity with Lorenzen.

  16. Old-school

    The new Reds FO plan everything. The Reds kept Nick Senzel off the opening Day roster for service time reasons. Then he got hurt. The reds offense was awful in April / may. Senzel was brought up June 1 to inject the offense with energy and play every inning in CF. There s never been a plan nor will there be a plan to give Lorenzen ” starters minutes”. Nick Senzel was the CF plan in 2019.

  17. VaRedsFan

    Why do you guys want to add a 14th pitcher to the roster? We can barely roll 3 so-so pitchers out at the top end of the bullpen as it is. So by all means, lets add another arm that will be worse than Peralta, Hernadez….(this list goes for mile) as the 14th pitcher at the bottom of the pen.