Delayed season may affect Michael Lorenzen’s two-way player designation

Michael Lorenzen was thought to gaining ground toward becoming a two-way player, but the delayed 2020 season may impact his chances.

The two-way player designation allows players like Michael Lorenzen, Shohei Ohtani and Bredan McKay to both pitch, hit and play the field. But, outside of Ohtani, no one in Major League Baseball meets the criteria. Will the shortened 2020 season put a damper on Lorenzen’s ability to receive the two-way player designation?

Okay, so what exactly is the two-way player designation? Beginning in 2020, whenever the season actually begins, players must be designated as either a pitcher or a position player. Only players designated as pitchers can pitch in a game. The exceptions to this rule are if a game goes into extra innings, a six-run deficit exists or a player is designated as a two-way player.

The method to the madness is to limit the number of times we see position players take over on the mound late in games. In recent years, Cincinnati Reds fans have seen the likes of José Peraza, Alex Blandino, Brandon Dixon and Phillip Ervin take over on the mound.

As a fan who likes to watch baseball in its purest form, I’m a big fan of the new rule. No offense, but I’m not interested in watching a shortstop lob the ball over the plate at 72-MPH. Nor am I interested in watching notable Reds nemesis, Javier Baez, turn around and bat left-handed, as he did last season when utility infielder Kyle Farmer was on the bump during a Cubs blowout.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the merit behind the idea. Managers would rather save one of their relievers some wear and tear when a game is presumably out of reach. But, this new rule will eliminate that possibility.

But, how does the two-way player designation affect Michael Lorenzen? Well, there’s some criteria he must meet. In order to qualify, a player must’ve pitched in 20 innings and played as a position player with at least three at-bats during either the current or previous MLB season. Lorenzen checks one box, but not the other.

Lorenzen saw action as a position player in several games near the end of last season. Personally, I think David Bell’s inclusion of Lorenzen in the lineup was intended to put thee reliever on the fast track to becoming a two-way player. With only eight games of three at-bats or more last season, Michael Lorenzen is 12 games shy in that department in terms of becoming a two-way player.

The common misconception in regards to the two-way player designation is that we’d see Lorenzen much more often playing the field and grabbing the bat than taking the mound. That’s not the case. The idea, at least as I see it, of getting Lorenzen designated as a two-way player is more about roster flexibility.

Major League Baseball had been looking to cap the number of pitchers a team could carry in 2020 at 13. Having a two-way player allows a team to keep 13 pitchers, 12 position players and a two-way player. If Lorenzen were designated as a two-way player and not a pitcher, Bell could conceivably add an extra pitcher to the roster.

But, with the 2020 season looking to be severely reduced in terms of number of games, the likelihood of Michael Lorenzen receiving the two-way player designation seems quite slim. With a slate of 80-100 games likely, every game becomes more meaningful, and seeing Lorenzen take the spot of a player like Phillip Ervin or Aristides Aquino for a game or two is unlikely.

It was recently reported that rosters may increase to 50 for the 2020 season. If that occurs, the likelihood of seeing Lorenzen as anything other than a relief pitcher seems exceedingly low. Players like Derek Dietrich, Josh VanMeter and other position players would likely get the at-bats that may have been reserved for Mikey Biceps.

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Depending on how the season unfolds will tell us a lot about Michael Lorenzen’s role with the Cincinnati Reds going forward. In the end, Lorenzen is much more valuable as a reliever, but his athletic ability gives the Reds a lot versatility.

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