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Michael Lorenzen is the New Shohei Ohtani

Michael Lorenzen is the New Shohei Ohtani

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

There’s an argument that’s been raging for decades over two positions in the game of baseball: the pitcher and the designated hitter. One side thinks that the pitchers should bat. The other side thinks a pitcher should be excused from all things offense. Both sides of the argument are valid, and we’ll get into that another time, but for right now let’s talk about one man in Cincinnati who is making a case for old-fashioned baseball. That man is Cincinnati Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen.

Michael Lorenzen was once a solid pitching prospect within the Cincinnati Reds system. Taken with the 38th pick in the 2013 draft, Lorenzen was in a draft class that included such sluggers as Aaron Judge, Hunter Renfroe, and Kris Bryant. In fact, out of the 19 position players taken in that first round, Lorenzen has more MLB home runs than 12, ahead of guys like Clint Frazier, Christian Arroyo, and Hunter Dozier. Not a bad group to put yourself in. Especially when three of your home runs came this week.

Initially a starter with the Reds, Lorenzen made 21 starts in 2015. The right-hander struggled in his first year, going 4-9 with an ERA of 5.40 and a WHIP of 1.659. After 2015, Lorenzen was moved to the bullpen and his numbers quieted down.

In 2016, Lorenzen made headlines away from the mound. I remember seeing the video on Facebook at the time, with a title something along lines of “Heartfelt Home Run Hit After Father’s Passing.” I watched as Michael Lorenzen took the field for the first time after his father’s death.

The video had an uplifting tone and made it seem like Michael’s home run was carried into the stands on the wings of angels, much like Dee Gordon’s home run in his first at-bat after José Fernandez’s death in 2016.

The interesting thing here is that Lorenzen’s father wasn’t all that amazing. Clif Lorenzen left his kids on Christmas Eve, when Michael was 12 to escape grand theft and forgery charges. An alcoholic, who met Michael’s mother when he sold her cocaine, Clif didn’t reach out to Michael until the June before he passed.

Michael had since found his faith and chose to forgive his father for his past transgressions. “I think a lot of people found inspiration in that,” Lorenzen said in an interview with “I got tons of messages. It was nice to see that his life did mean something in the end, and still could.”

We tend to make things up to be greater than they are nowadays and Michael Lorenzen’s first home run fell prey to that mentality. It was a moment that we clung to, we added our own story, and eventually lifted up a man who struggled with the absence of his father and came out the other side stronger.

Why do I bring up Lorenzen’s first home? Because this week Lorenzen hit another memorable home run.

And then another.

And then a goddamn Grand Slam.

This week Michael Lorenzen, having the best year of his career on the mound so far, has hit three home runs, two solo shots, and a Grand Slam, in three straight at-bats. That’s actually insane.

Even more insane? Lorenzen’s approach at the plate. Most casual spectators of the game would think that a pitcher has no idea what they’re doing at the plate. That pitchers are just hoping to put some wood on the ball. Lorenzen proves that’s not the case. When asked what his thinking was for his GRAND SLAM at-bat, Lorenzen has this to say:

“They had the infield in right when I got in the box, so I was looking for something elevated. As I got comfortable in the box, they moved back, but with the bases loaded I am still looking to at least get a sac fly and not hit the ball on the ground.”

Lorenzen caught an elevated fastball that got way too much of the plate off Brewers pitcher Jacob Barnes. As the ball left his bat, the game of baseball got a new star, if only for a week. Michael Lorenzen homered his way into our hearts.

Sure the comparison between Ohtani and Lorenzen is dumb, but if there’s something that connects them it’s the amazing things that can happen when a pitcher can hit. Moving the forward, the Reds have a secret weapon in Lorenzen off the bench. The guy is a threat, a player who tips a matchup to your advantage. With the Reds relief pitcher at the plate, there’s no telling what’ll happen. The possibilities are endless.

So the next time someone tells you that pitchers hitting isn’t exciting, ask them how they feel when #21 on the Reds steps into the box. For the next few games, I’ll be ready to tune in. Why? Just in case Lorenzen decides to become a Home Run Derby participant.

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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