No scouting report could have let the Jacksonville Suns know what Michael Lorenzen had in store for them on Sunday. Lorenzen himself might not have known, but the results could hardly have been better.
Unveiling a brand new curveball, the Reds' No. 4 prospect pitched five hitless innings before Double-A Pensacola fell to visiting Jacksonville, 3-0.
"[Jacksonville] is a good fastball-hitting team and I knew that they were going to be all over my fastball," Lorenzen said. "This year, the biggest difference for me is I've been able to throw my secondary stuff. Today, I actually threw a curveball that I've been working on for the first time. I threw that a couple times at them just to get their eye levels changed. My secondary stuff was really working tonight to where they couldn't sit on the fastball."
An outfielder and part-time closer in college, Lorenzen is developing into a starter in the Cincinnati system and worked over the last few days to add a new dimension to his three-pitch mix.
"I just started working on [the curveball] like a week ago," Lorenzen said with a laugh. "I was watching [Cardinals starter Adam] Wainwright throw and [Dodgers starter Clayton] Kershaw throw, and they have these big, loopy curveballs. I was interested in throwing one, I really wanted to throw one.
"I watched some videos on Wainwright, how he gripped it, how he threw it. I got some input from a couple guys on the team, what they do when they throw it. I just started working on it last series, the day before I pitched. I threw it in the bullpen for the first time just three days ago and it was really good, so I threw it today and got a strikeout with it."
Lorenzen flashed his new weapon in the opening inning and used it to keep the Suns off-balance. The 22-year-old right-hander retired the side in order in the first and third and faced the minimum in the fifth to close his day. He fanned six, walked four and threw 50 of 81 pitches for strikes.
But his biggest pitch is the new one he'll continue working on.
"That's the only way you can get better, you know? That's what the Minor Leagues are for," he said. "You're here to learn and get better. You can't be afraid to do stuff like that, I feel like. You've got to be mature about it. I actually wanted to throw to a guy with runners on second and third and two outs. It was an 0-2 count and I was like, 'Man, I'd really like to throw it right now, try and build my confidence with it.'
"I'm just not afraid. You have to be a go-getter. I set goals. The great starters have a fastball, curveball, slider, change, and they can throw them all for strikes. That's what I desire to be. I don't want to learn it when I'm in the big leagues, so right now is the best time to learn it."
Lorenzen exited a scoreless game, but Jacksonville broke through in the eighth against the Blue Wahoos bullpen. With two outs, Austin Nola doubled and scored on a base hit by Brady Shoemaker, who came home on a double by Wilfredo Gimenez.
Alex Burg added a solo homer in the ninth for the Suns.
Four pitchers combined on Jacksonville's fifth shutout, with starter Tyler Higgins allowing three hits over five innings and Greg Nappo (2-0) working around a hit over two frames for the win. Marlins No. 13 prospect Nick Wittgren pitched a perfect ninth to earn his sixth save.