The Reds could welcome right-hander Michael Lorenzen back from the injured list this weekend, manager David Bell told reporters (including Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer). The 29-year-old is on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville.
Lorenzen hasn’t pitched all year on account of a right shoulder strain. While the Reds intended to give him a shot to earn a spot in the starting rotation entering the year, Lorenzen’s now expected to come back in his customary relief role. Bell told reporters last month Cincinnati didn’t feel it was worthwhile to try to build his workload up to a level sufficient to take on a starting job, given the injury.
His return will be a welcome development for a Cincinnati bullpen that has been among the league’s worst this season. Reds relievers have a cumulative 5.22 ERA; only the Rockies bullpen (5.44) has had a tougher time preventing runs. The peripherals look a bit better — Cincinnati relievers are eighteenth in strikeout/walk rate differential (14.5 percentage points) and 21st in SIERA (4.01) — but the bullpen has nevertheless been one of the weaker position groups on the roster.
The issues have been exacerbated by recent injuries to Lucas Sims and Tejay Antone. Sims suffered an elbow sprain in late June that came with an expected one-month recovery timetable, and it now seems Antone’s looking at a similar return date. Antone has yet to resume throwing after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection on his ailing right forearm and isn’t expected back until late July, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com was among those to relay.
Presumably, the bullpen will be a key target area for the Reds to address in the next few weeks. In an interview with C. Trent Rosecrans of the Athletic on Friday, general manager Nick Krall said the club would be “aggressive” in acquiring help from outside the organization. Krall suggested then the front office wasn’t giving consideration to selling pieces off the big league roster, and that’s certainly all the more true after Cincinnati swept the Cubs in a three-game set to take over second place in the NL Central last weekend. At 43-40, the Reds still trail the division-leading Brewers by 6.5 games, and they’re 5.5 back of the Padres in the race for the league’s second Wild Card spot.
One question that remains is how much financial flexibility the front office has in exploring midseason upgrades. Krall told Rosecrans the team could add salary “within reason,” a bit of an equivocation that’s likely to concern some fans after payroll constrains led the Reds to trade closer Raisel Iglesias to the Angels for very little return over the winter.