Michael Lorenzen has yet to pitch this season due to a shoulder strain suffered during Spring Training, and it will still be a while before the right-hander takes the field. Reds manager David Bell told reporters (including MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon) that Lorenzen could “maybe” return to action around the All-Star break, though Lorenzen did provide a positive update on his rehab work. “He said everything he did yesterday felt like he was never injured,” Bell said.
When Lorenzen does get back to Cincinnati, Bell noted that the right-hander “will come back as a reliever. He’s not going to have to build up to be a starter. We’ll get him back quicker that way.”
The shoulder strain was initially thought to be relatively minor when Lorenzen was sidelined back in March, though a setback during his rehab led to multiple PRP injections and a move to the 60-day injured list. It also cost Lorenzen a potential chance at a rotation spot, as he was auditioning as a starter during Spring Training. Lorenzen has also been used as a pinch-hitter and fill-in outfielder in recent years, but Bell didn’t mention whether or not Lorenzen would continue in any sort of two-way role upon his return.
The righty is no stranger to relief pitching, of course, after spending several seasons as a prime set-up weapon out of Cincinnati’s bullpen. Lorenzen had never entirely closed the door on starting pitching, however, making three starts during the 2018 season and two turns in the Reds rotation last September, which led him to firmly set his sights on being a full-time starter in 2021.
Assuming he does get back around the All-Star break, Lorenzen will at least have the second half of the season to bank some quality innings and hopefully help the Reds compete for a postseason berth. However, Cincinnati is just 25-29 at the moment, sitting in fourth place in the NL Central and six games back of the first-place Cubs. If the Reds can’t get into the playoff race and decide to sell at the trade deadline, Lorenzen is scheduled for free agency this winter and would be an obvious trade chip.
Lorenzen would only have a couple of weeks between the All-Star break and the July 30 deadline to pitch effectively and prove his health for any interested suitors. That said, he does have a solid track record as a reliever, and would be inexpensive — a team acquiring him on July 30 would be on the hook for roughly $1.49MM remaining on Lorenzen’s $4,437,500 salary for the year. Even if Lorenzen is a bit shaky in his first couple of outings back from the injured list, it’s easy to imagine another team taking the calculated risk of trading for him anyway.