The Phillies could deploy Michael Lorenzen out of the bullpen down the stretch, writes Matt Gelb of the Athletic. Manager Rob Thomson said Tuesday that the Phils had yet to make a final decision but suggested they were likely to move back to a five-man rotation after today’s off day.
Philadelphia’s front four is locked in. They’ll go with Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker and Zack Wheeler over their next few appearances. If they go back to a five-man staff, they’ll need to decide between Cristopher Sánchez or Lorenzen for next Tuesday’s start in Atlanta.
Sánchez has been the more effective for the Phils. The 26-year-old southpaw owns a 3.40 ERA over 87 1/3 innings on the season. After striking out 10 Braves hitters in 7 1/3 frames last night, he has a quality 23.6% strikeout percentage to go with a huge 56.4% grounder rate. He has demonstrated excellent control, cutting his walk rate below the 4% mark.
Lorenzen hasn’t found the same level of success overall in Philadelphia. He started his tenure brilliantly, rattling off eight innings of two-run ball during his team debut in Miami and no-hitting the Nationals at home in his second start. Things have spiraled in the few weeks since that historic outing. Lorenzen has allowed four-plus runs in each of his last five appearances, topping out at six innings. Since the no-hitter, he has a 7.96 ERA with a minuscule 11% strikeout rate.
The 31-year-old’s overall production is still solid. Including his strong first half with the Tigers, he owned a 3.23 ERA across 122 2/3 innings a month ago. Even after the rough few weeks, he’s allowing 4.06 earned runs per nine altogether. Yet he’s also in uncharted territory from a workload perspective, with his 148 2/3 frames easily topping his previous career high of 113 1/3 innings as a rookie back in 2015.
Lorenzen had worked almost exclusively out of relief for the Reds from his second season onward. Upon reaching free agency in the 2021-22 offseason, he prioritized a rotation spot and signed a one-year pact with the Angels. He logged 97 2/3 innings a season ago, with injuries capping him at 18 starts. That was still a heavier load than he’d shouldered during his time in the bullpen but fell shy of a typical starter’s capacity.
The righty hasn’t shown obvious signs of physical decline. His velocity this month is in line with his early-season level. The results have fallen off sharply, though, perhaps reflecting a more subtle dip in Lorenzen’s execution.
Gelb suggests the Phils have given some thought to deploying Sánchez and Lorenzen as a tandem duo in the fifth starter’s spot. That’d allow them to keep an eye on the workload for each, though it’s arguable they’d be better served acting more definitively. Both pitchers have handled themselves well when turning a lineup over, so there’s not a pressing need to mitigate either’s ’times through the order’ splits. They each have experience working as relievers, with Lorenzen particularly familiar with a high-leverage short relief role from his time in Cincinnati.
The Phils occupy the top Wild Card spot in the National League and are in strong position to secure a playoff spot. Both Sánchez and Lorenzen would likely play relief roles in October, at least in the opening three-game Wild Card series. They’ll conclude the regular season with 16 games in 17 days, starting tomorrow.
Lorenzen is headed back to free agency in the offseason. Even if he’s kicked to the bullpen for the last couple weeks, he’s in position for a much stronger pact than the $8.5MM guarantee he received from Detroit a year ago. He’s going into his age-32 campaign and could find three- or four-year offers this time around.