GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With ace Johnny Cueto still at home tending to family issues and the Reds looking at an open spot due to his absence, the club will turn to prospect Michael Lorenzen to start against the Indians on Thursday at 4:05 p.m. ET. There is no known scheduled return date for Cueto, manager Bryan Price said.
Lorenzen, the organization's No. 4 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, has a 1.13 ERA across four games this spring but he will be making his first start. Although the right-hander is not expected to make the team's rotation out of camp, this could be a key audition for two reasons.
First, Lorenzen is still a candidate for a long-reliever role in the big league bullpen. Second, he could still get starts at some point this season with Cincinnati.
"As we've come to terms with the [bullpen] role we have for Tony Cingrani, that elevates the opportunity for guys like Lorenzen and [Jon] Moscot to potentially be the next in line in the rotation," Price said on Monday. "So he's going to pick up innings."
If Lorenzen doesn't make the team, Price believed he would begin the season at Triple-A Louisville.
"He would be the first, or one of the first, lines of defense if we needed a starter," Price said. "If we needed to make him a reliever, we need him in our bullpen, he has a history as a reliever anyway. Right now we have him stretched out as an option if we find the need for another starter."
Lorenzen, 23, has pitched two innings in each of his four previous outings. On Friday against the Giants, he struggled for the first time, walking six but getting to about 50 pitches.
"Probably his next time out, he'll get up to as many as 65-70, which would realistically make him capable of throwing 85-90 pitches in a start," Price said.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.