GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Reliever Michael Lorenzen has begun the Cincinnati Reds‘ mound-to-outfield experiment, pitching one inning and then moving to center field Monday in a game against the Cleveland Indians. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him.
Lorenzen chased Jose Ramirez‘s leadoff double in the bottom of the sixth inning of a 5-5 tie, his biggest test during his first time in the outfield.
“It was fun,” Lorenzen said. “I didn’t necessarily get any fly balls but I had a couple hit to me. Hopefully next time I get to run one down.”
The Reds are exploring options for replacing center fielder Billy Hamilton, who signed with the Royals. Lorenzen was a center fielder at Cal State Fullerton who also closed games on occasion. The Reds drafted him as a pitcher in 2013, and he has lobbied for a dual role in the majors.
He finally got his chance Monday.
Lorenzen came on to pitch the bottom of the fifth inning and retired all three Indians, two by strikeout. Instead of heading off to ice his shoulder, he looked for his batting helmet. He faced Mike Clevinger and struck out swinging, then replaced Nick Senzel in center field.
He started shading Ramirez, the first batter, toward right field, then moved back the other way. Ramirez hit the ball to the gap in right for a double.
“The game knows,” Lorenzen said. “It was funny because I was actually shaded to right center. I ended up moving into left center.”
In the seventh inning, Cleveland’s Eric Stamets went from first to third on a single to center. Lorenzen fielded the ball and threw to third too late.
“I’d rather err on the side of overdoing it, that’s my personality,” Lorenzen said.
Lorenzen left after his two innings in the outfield.
First-year manager David Bell likes the option of using Lorenzen in center. After getting him ready to pitch during the first part of camp, Bell finally gave him a chance to play center.
“That’s what we all wanted to see,” Bell said after the game. “It is just different. It’s all new to us. I’ve never been close to a pitcher who can do these things.”
Lorenzen’s success as a hitter in the majors has inspired Bell to try to unusual, two-position arrangement.
Last season, Lorenzen went 4-2 with a 3.11 ERA and one save in 42 relief appearances and three starts. He also batted .290 and led major league pitchers with four homers — including one grand slam — and 10 RBI in 31 at-bats. As a pinch-hitter, he went 3 for 13 with two homers.
Six times, he entered the game as a pinch-hitter and stayed in to pitch. From June 24-30, he homered in three straight at-bats, including a grand slam. He became the first major league pitcher to homer in three straight at-bats since Colorado’s Mike Hampton in 2001.
Senzel is a leading candidate for the job in center. He went 1 for 3 on Monday and is batting .381.