Michael Lorenzen is a religious guy — devout about his pitching and devout about his Christian beliefs. He sits in front of his locker every morning, ear buds in place to listen to Christian rock music, a bible in his lap.
In addition to his beliefs, Lorenzen owns an arm capable of throwing a baseball 100 mph and he can do it without a prayer.
“It’s like Christmas every morning,” he said as he looks around the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse.
A little more than a year ago the 22-year-old native of Anaheim, Calif. was a center fielder at Cal State-Fullerton University and as he said, “I like to think I was a pretty good hitter.”
But when you have a center fielder who can throw a baseball 100 mph, what do you do with him? You make him a pitcher, right?
Asked who converted him into a pitcher, Lorezen smiles and says, “For me? The Lord. He obviously thought it was best for me.”
The messengers, though, were Cal-Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook and pitching coach Jason Dietrich, who recognized a bionic arm when they saw one.
“I never ever worked on pitching,” Lorenzen said. “Vanderhook asked me if I could pitch and I said, ‘I’ll try,’ and it ended up working out. They never even worked with me on anything, just told me to go in and get outs.”
The Reds saw something, too, and it wasn’t Lorenzen’s bat or glove. It was that right arm that could spin the dial on a radar gun at 100. So they took a chance and drafted him last June in the Competitive Balance Lottery Round A, the 38th pick overall.
Lorenzen went back to Cal State-Fullerton during the offseason, knowing he was now a pitcher only, “Because Bill Bavasi (Reds vice president of scouting) called me and told me they wanted me to just be a pitcher.”
Lorenzen sought out Cal State-Fullteron pitching coach Dietrich, “And he really taught me a lot of stuff, I learn a lot from him. He made some tweaks and gave me some things to think about.”
Asked if he fought the switch from being an every day player to a pitcher, Lorenzen said, “Yeah, I did. I fought it at first because it was hard for me to surrender hitting. I was being prideful. The door was still open a little bit so I kept looking back.”
But when Bavasi called, the door slammed shut and Lorenzen said, “I was excited about that and it was time to give it 100 per cent of my effort.”
There is a guy in the Reds clubhouse who can empathize with Lorenzen. Mike Leake played shortstop at Arizona State, although he always was a pitcher, too. He only pitches now and it has worked out pretty well for him — 45-29 in his four years as a Reds starter, including 14-7 last year.
“I’ve talked to him a lot,” Lorenzen said. “I’ve actually started throwing his slider. He showed me his grip. And Tony Cingrani works with me. I played catch with him every day. He helps me with my release point. There are a lot of great guys on this team.”
Lorenzen said his fast ball tops out at 100, “But if I’m in relief I probably average between 95 to 98 and if I start low to mid-90s and get it up there more when I need it.”
Of his chance to mingle with the big boys when he has appeared in only 22 professional games, Lorenzen says, “What it is all about is being excited just to show up and play the sport you have been gifted to play and use the platform that comes with it. It’s awesome.”
As he talked, a bible was open in his lap and stayed open. After the interview he continued reading.
“I read it every single day,” he said. “I study it and apply it. I’ve started a non-profit and put up a web-site on which I post what I’m studying. A lot of other athletes see what I’m reading and studying and they follow right along with me.”
Reds manager Bryan Price, a former pitcher and former pitching coach, is excited about Lorenzen’s future. Lorenzen was 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in seven relief appearances at Class AA Pensacola last year after starting the season at low Class A Dayton, where he was 1-0 with a 0-0 ERA in nine appearances that earned him a quick promotion to high Class A Bakersfield. He was 0-1 in five relief appearances there and quickly moved to Class AA.
“A lot of time with hard throwers you expect a lot of physical effort in their deliveries,” Price said. “That’s the way it is with a lot of young pitchers and you learn to smooth that out and trust that the velocity will be there and you don’t have to labor for it.
“But watching Lorenzen and Robert Stephenson (No. 1 draft pick in 2011), I mean, they are just terrific. Their deliveries are easy. It doesn’t look as if they were putting a ton of effort into it and the ball was just jumping out of their hands and explodes at the plate,” said Price.
Lorenzen hopes his career continues to explode upward.
Cincinnati vs. Cleveland, 3 p.m.