The first wave of reinforcements arrived for the Cincinnati Reds’ bullpen before Friday’s series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Michael Lorenzen was back at Great American Ball Park and set to be activated from the injured list Friday afternoon.
He will make his season debut when he makes his first appearance, sidelined for the first 3 ½ months of the season because of a right shoulder strain.
“It’s pretty awesome to just come right in and be a part of this,” Lorenzen said. “I’ve been watching some games. Some of the games, I can’t watch, because I’m texting (coaches and trainers) about getting me back right now, trying to fight to get back.
"I watch games, but I know it’s almost not good for me to watch some of them. The ones that I have been watching, it’s been a ton of fun with the way the bullpen has stepped up.”
Lorenzen made five appearances on his rehab assignment, four at Triple-A Louisville and one at the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League. He allowed two hits (one homer) in 5 1/3 innings while striking out eight and walking one.
During his rehab assignment, he had one multi-inning relief appearance and he pitched on back-to-back days earlier this week. There was a chance he could've returned before the All-Star break, but he remained with Louisville during the All-Star break to complete his rehab.
“I don’t think I will be eased into anything; I’m ready to roll,” Lorenzen said. "I’m really happy with my stuff. I’m sleeping good at night knowing I have my ‘A’ stuff and I’m ready to just show up and attack hitters with it, plug right into this bullpen."
A turning point, Lorenzen said, was in his first live batting practice session in Arizona because it was “absolutely terrible.”
“I was working on some stuff and it was actually exactly what I needed because it was so bad that I was like, ‘what are you doing? You know what you need to do,’” he said. “It was almost like if it was a little bit better, I would’ve kept doing those things and I still wouldn’t be comfortable today.
“The fact that it was so bad, it was like, ‘knock it off, you know what you need to do to be good.’ Then that next outing, it was perfect, exactly where I need to be. It’s felt that way every single outing to where my stuff is there.”
Lorenzen, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, was expected to begin the year in the starting rotation if he didn’t injure his shoulder. He had a 4.28 ERA in 33 2/3 innings in 2020, making two starts at the end of the season in must-win games during their playoff push.
He’s been one of the club’s best relievers for the past five years. He had a 2.92 ERA across 73 relief appearances in 2019, striking out 85 and walking 28 in 83 1/3 innings.
Along with pitching, Lorenzen provides manager David Bell some additional flexibility on the Reds’ bench. He had two singles in two at-bats during his rehab assignment, plus he’s one of the fastest runners on the team and a solid defensive outfielder.
“Any time we can add Michael Lorenzen back on to our team and to the bullpen, he’s going to make us better,” Reds manager David Bell said.
What excited Lorenzen when he watched the Reds on TV – the games where he wasn’t texting everybody all the time – was seeing all the emotions that his teammates showed.
Seeing Joey Votto yell after a big hit or a big play fired him up.
“Whenever you have the leader of your team doing what he’s doing right now, it energizes the rest of the team,” Lorenzen said of Votto. “It’s his team. We’re playing behind him. To see him do his thing and everyone else free up and play as hard as they can, run out every ball and just do everything. Try to make the diving play. Watching them put their bodies on the line for each other and for the city. That’s the one takeaway that I’ve noticed.”