Since being selected in the first round (38th overall) of last year's Draft, Michael Lorenzen has worn six different uniforms and bounced around between the outfield, the rotation and the bullpen. But the Reds' No. 5 prospect finally has the opportunity to get comfortable.
And Monday night, it showed.
In a Pensacola jersey in his new role as a starting pitcher, Lorenzen (1-0) settled in, allowing four hits while striking out six over seven shutout innings as the Blue Wahoos beat the Smokies, 3-2.
"I threw a lot of strikes, was able to get ahead of counts, everything was working," he said. "I feel really loose, threw about 78 pitches, ready to play catch tomorrow. My arm felt really good, it is taking to starting pitching really well."
After Cal State Fullerton was eliminated in the NCAA Regionals by eventual College World Series champs UCLA, Lorenzen quickly began his career, starting with the Arizona League Reds. His lone professional start of 2013 only lasted one inning and the California native was quickly promoted to the Class A Midwest League, where he met Tony Fossas, Dayton's pitching coach. With the Dragons, Lorenzen had his longest stint of the season -- nine games. But seven strikeouts and 8 1/3 shutout innings later, the 6-foot-3 hurler was on the move again.
"That was tough for me to go through the changes last year," the 22-year-old said. "Progressing with [Fossas] and then moving on was tough. I lost some of the stuff that he helped me out with. That was my motivation this year; just building a foundation and have stuff that I know I can go back to."
Lorenzen ran into some trouble in the hitter-friendly Class A Advanced California League, posting a 6.35 ERA in five appearances with Bakersfield, but another promotion was imminent. And by mid-August, it was time for him to get a Pensacola uniform, where he allowed three runs in six innings.
Come January, Lorenzen got the most exciting call yet -- an invitation to join the Reds at big league camp. In his sixth uniform, the right-hander got the opportunity to learn from the organization's best pitchers. He played catch with Tony Cingrani, who was always blunt with the young pitcher "when I sucked," and talked with fellow hurler Johnny Cueto who always kept him loose.
"Almost every single guy was there to help me out and answer my questions," Lorenzen said. "I was able to get into a routine and [now] I have confidence with what I'm doing. It was great watching these big leaguers do their routine, because if they can do it than I can do it."
After camp, it was officially decided that Lorenzen would join the Blue Wahoos rotation. But not without taking a piece of the bullpen with him. After allowing two singles to lead off the sixth Monday, Lorenzen reverted back to his ninth-inning self.
"I have learned that when a guy gets in scoring position, I click into closer mentality," he said. "It helps me get out of it."
Two ground balls later he was out of the inning unscathed. He departed after a perfect seventh, then watched relievers Shane Dyer and Drew Hayes each give up a run in the following two innings, but hold on for the victory.
"I did my part and that's what I can do for the team," the starter said. "[Dyer] is really really good and experienced. Our whole bullpen can get the job done. It's a team effort, it's not about me."
Lorenzon showed his Titans-best .343 average from college was no fluke when he doubled in the fourth. He was also hit by a pitch in the head, but was not injured.
Matt Loosen (0-1) took the loss after allowing three runs on six hits while striking out two over five innings.