Reds have choice to make on Lorenzen

Just as Mike Lorenzen once had a life-changing decision to make, the Cincinnati Reds have an important decision to make involving Lorenzen.

Starter or closer? Remember the momentous decision in involving starter or closer for Aroldis Chapman? The Reds have the same kind of decision to make with Lorenzen.

WHEN LORENZEN PLAYED college baseball at Cal State-Fullerton he was an outfielder. But if the game involved a save situation in the ninth inning Lorenzen was dispatched from center field to the mound to close the game.

After the Reds drafted him and signed him, they decided they liked his stuff enough to make him a starter. But last season they tried him in the bullpen and it was successful.

Now what? With Chapman traded the Reds are looking for a closer.

BUT LORENZEN STARTED Friday’s game against the San Francisco Giants and put on the best performance of the spring by a Reds pitcher. He pitched two innings and hardly threw a pitch out of the strike zone. He retired all six Giants he faced and not a ball left the infield — four ground balls and two strikeouts. He struck out first baseman Brandon Belt on three pitches to end the first inning.

The scenario for Lorenzen may be this: he might be in the rotation when the season begins because of the absence of Homer Bailey. But when Bailey returns in mid-May, Lorenzen could be shuffled back to the bullpen, perhaps pending the outcomes of the starts he gets before Bailey’s return.

AND LORENZEN’S life-changing event? He was a rebellious teenager and spent a lot of time sitting on the dock of the bay in Fullerton smoking pot.

He met a stranger one day on the dock who asked him if he knew Jesus. Lorenzen didn’t but he quickly got acquainted and eventually traded marijuana for the Bible. He even has scripture tattooed on his arm.

He found Jesus, he found a new life and now he is finding success on a baseball mound.

And the game? The Reds lost to the Giants, 4-3, when highly regarded pitching prospect Amir Garrett gave up three runs in the sixth inning.

THE 6-FOOT-2, 210-POUND left hander is an interesting story, too. He believed he was a basketball player instead of a baseball pitcher.

In fact, he was the No. 63 high school prospect on the basketball floor his senior year in high school at Findlay Prep and signed with St. John’s University in New York. He played two years for the Red Storm and decided to transfer to Cal State-Northridge.

While at St. John’s his father convinced him to try baseball again and he set up a personal tryout camp for scouts. The Reds liked him so much they drafted him in the 22nd round, gave him a $1 million signing bonus and said, “Yeah, go ahead and continue to play college basketball.”

As a transfer from St. John’s to Northridge he had to sit out a year and during his down time he decided to forego basketball and concentrate on baseball.

Garrett, 23, was 9-and-7 in 26 starts with a 2.74 ERA for the high-A Daytona Tortugas last season and emerged as one of the Reds’ top pitching prospects.

San Francisco started Madison Bumgarner against the Reds Friday and in two innings only one runner reached base. That was third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who hit a two-out home run in the first inning and is doing his best to make fans forget about traded third baseman Todd Frazier.

Center fielder Billy Hamilton was on Friday’s original lineup card as a designated hitter but was a late scratch. His surgically repaired shoulder was barking and that has to be of some concern to the Reds for the near future.





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