Rookie Lorenzen learning on the job

Recent struggles could open a spot in the rotation

Rookie Lorenzen learning on the job

SAN DIEGO -- Reds rookie starter Michael Lorenzen has been learning some hard lessons on the mound lately. The question that loomed following an 11-6 loss to the Padres on Tuesday is whether Lorenzen will get more opportunities to work his way out of an extended funk.

Reds manager Bryan Price did not offer much in the way of an endorsement for Lorenzen, who gave up seven earned runs over a season-low start of 1 1/3 innings.

"We'll see. I'd like to get through today before we start talking about the future," Price said. "As I've mentioned before, we look at them all. I know he's struggled lately, and we have to have a proactive plan on what's in the best interest of all five of these young starters."

Price did not discuss alternatives, but a chance could open for No. 2 prospect Robert Stephenson, or perhaps John Lamb -- one of the acquisitions from the Royals in the Johnny Cueto trade. Both are at Triple-A Louisville.

Since his last victory on June 21, Lorenzen is 0-6 with an 8.49 ERA -- and a 12.57 mark in five second-half starts. Overall, he is 3-8 with a 5.46 ERA in 19 games, including 17 starts, and he has failed to complete three innings in two of the last three.

The all-rookie rotation had posted respectable results since the Cueto and Mike Leake trades, with a 3.27 ERA in its previous 12 starts.

But just like his fellow rookies -- Anthony DeSclafani, David Holmberg, Raisel Iglesias and Keyvius Sampson -- Lorenzen is learning on the job. Unlike them, he is still just 23 years old, and only two years removed from being drafted. This is just his second year of being a starter at any level.

"Teammates, left and right, have been coming up to me," Lorenzen said. "They want to help. They see the struggle. They see that I'm learning. I don't want to say, 'like the typical rookie,' but I'm going through those growing pains right now, and they want to help. It's encouraging. It's all you can ask for right now."

Price acknowledged fatigue could be an issue for Lorenzen, who is at 109 2/3 innings combined in the big leagues and Louisville. He threw 120 2/3 innings last season at Double-A Pensacola.

"There's plenty of guys out there who are tired, so it definitely could be circumstance where he's had some arm fatigue," Price said. "Part of the learning process of learning how to pitch here is learning how to pitch with less than your optimal stuff. These are lessons a lot of these young guys are learning now. You have to manage the game regardless of whether you have your A-grade stuff or more commonly when you have your B- or C-grade stuff."

Lorenzen acknowledged that he's lacked fastball command. He walked both of his batters in the three-run first inning and several of his pitches left over the plate were hit hard.

"I think I've done it better the past two starts and then today, it just wasn't there again," he said. "It's how can I get there mechanically, but without thinking about it, in the Major Leagues? That's the struggle. I'm pushing through it."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.