Michael Lorenzen of the Cincinnati Reds is one of those rare players in Major League Baseball that can do it all. Primarily used as a pitcher in his early days in the league, the California native wanted more at-bats, worked hard to become a two-way player and now spends a bit of time in the outfield as well.
Easily the best-known MLB player to be utilized as both a pitcher and hitter was Babe Ruth (who once almost ended up in Cincinnati), who posted a 94-46 career record as a starting pitcher and hit 714 career home runs as a hitter. While Michael Lorenzen certainly won’t reach numbers like that, he does sit right alongside The Babe in the record book.
Michael Lorenzen was a two-way player at Cal State Fullerton
Following his high school career at Fullerton (CA) Union High School, Michael Lorenzen was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh round of the 2010 MLB draft but chose instead to attend Cal State Fullerton, one of the best college baseball programs in the U.S. Used as both a pitcher and position player, he was a finalist for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award in 2012, the same year he was named an All-American. In his final year with the Titans, Lorenzen posted a 3-0 record as a pitcher with a 1.99 ERA and also hit .333 with seven home runs and 54 runs batted in.
How he became a two-way player
The Cincinnati Reds drafted Michael Lorenzen with the 38th overall pick of the 2013 MLB draft but intended to mostly use him as a pitcher. He spent the first couple years of his career bouncing around in the minors before being called up to the big-league roster in 2015. He appeared in 27 games in 2015, starting 21 of them and posted a 4-9 record with a 5.40 ERA.
Lorenzen was moved to the bullpen in 2016 and over the next two seasons made 105 relief appearances for the Reds. In 2018, still pitching out of the bullpen, Lorenzen made a few appearances as a pinch-hitter, even hitting a grand slam against the Milwaukee Brewers, one of four home runs he hit that season. Wanting even more at-bats, Lorenzen worked out as an outfielder in the 2018-2019 offseason as he wanted to be a two-way player.
The Reds saw the talent he possessed at the plate and in the field and obliged. In 2019, Michael Lorenzen still pitched out of the bullpen, making 73 relief appearances, but also spent time in the outfield. After a combined 51 plate appearances in the previous three seasons, he made 53 in 2019.
Lorenzen joins Babe Ruth in the MLB record books
Michael Lorenzen’s talents were on full display on September 4, 2019, when the Reds took on the Philadelphia Phillies. Leading 5-4 in the seventh inning, Cincinnati brought in Lorenzen to relieve Robert Stephenson. He immediately gave up a game-tying home run to Jay Bruce.
The Reds retook the lead in the bottom of the seventh and Lorenzen came back out to pitch the eighth inning, holding Philadelphia scoreless. He came to bat in the bottom half of the frame and belted a two-run homer off of Phillies reliever Blake Paker to give Cincy an 8-5 lead. The home run was the seventh of Lorenzen’s career, the second-most of any pitcher since he began his big-league career. But his night wasn’t done just yet.
In the ninth inning, Cincinnati closer Rafael Iglesias was brought in and Lorenzen was moved to center field, replacing Brian O’Grady. Iglesias closed things out with a three-up, three-down ninth and Michael Lorenzen made history. He became just the second player in MLB history to win a game as a pitcher, hit a home run, and play the field in the same game.
The only other player to accomplish such a feat was Babe Ruth, who did so on June 13, 1921, in a Yankees win over the Tigers. The Babe won the game as a reliever, hit two home runs, and finished the game in center field.