The Tigers added right-hander Michael Lorenzen on a one-year, $8.5MM guarantee earlier this offseason. He’ll add some depth to a Detroit rotation that’ll be without Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal to start the season (likely the whole year in the former’s case), joining Eduardo Rodriguez, Spencer Turnbull, Matt Manning and Matthew Boyd in the presumptive season-opening rotation. The 31-year-old indicated today he’s hoping to expand his responsibilities beyond the mound.
Lorenzen told reporters he’s angling for an opportunity to log some at-bats this season (link via Evan Woodbery of MLive.com). He’s dabbled with being a two-way player in years past, most notably when he combined for 87 plate appearances with the 2018-19 Reds. Lorenzen only hit once in each of his final two seasons with Cincinnati and didn’t do so at all last year with the Angels, whom he said declined his request for at-bats. The eight-year MLB veteran said this morning he devoted some time this offseason to tinkering with his swing mechanics.
Over 147 big league plate appearances, Lorenzen is a .233/.282/.429 hitter. He’s connected on seven home runs and stolen five bases in seven attempts, showing an intriguing power/speed combination. Yet his overall offensive production — while excellent compared to other pitchers — has been well worse than that of a league average hitter thanks to a meager 4.8% walk rate and huge 32% strikeout percentage. Of course, Lorenzen has never had an extended run of everyday looks at live pitching to get into a groove. Whether the Tigers are willing to give him even stray at-bats or some outfield work remains to be seen.
In other news out of the Motor City:
- Reliever Alex Lange declined an opportunity to pitch for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, telling Chris McCosky of the Detroit News he preferred to focus on the season. Lange spoke of his desire to seize the closer’s role heading into 2023. Detroit dealt last year’s primary closer, Gregory Soto, to Philadelphia last month. Andrew Chafin, Joe Jiménez and Michael Fulmer — the other three hurlers who had multiple saves for the club last year — are all on different teams as well. That’ll leave manager A.J. Hinch relying on someone (or multiple pitchers) without much closing experience in the ninth inning. Lange certainly will be in line for high-leverage innings in some capacity after striking out 30.3% of opponents with a massive 55.6% grounder rate over 63 1/3 innings. He posted a 3.41 ERA and held 21 leads in a setup capacity, with an 11.4% walk percentage the only red flag in his performance. Will Vest, José Cisnero and Jason Foley could also battle for work late in games.
- While Lorenzen and Lange are sure to assume key roles on the club, catcher Andrew Knapp will fight for a roster spot this spring. The veteran backstop inked a minor league deal with Detroit on the heels of a 2022 campaign that saw him log time in four different organizations. Knapp recently chatted with Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free-Press about his push for the #2 catching job behind Eric Haase. More broadly, the switch-hitter noted he’s excited to learn from Hinch — a former big league catcher — both in his desire to improve as a leader of a pitching staff and with an eye towards his longer-term future. Knapp noted he’d “really enjoy pursuing a managing career if that’s an opportunity I ever get” in his post-playing days. At age 31, he could certainly extend his playing career for a while before worrying about the next phase, starting with a push for a roster spot in Detroit. Jake Rogers — who’s returning after spending all of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery — and recent trade acquisition Donny Sands join Haase as the three backstops on the 40-man roster.