Lorenzen renews confidence from bullpen

Righty overhauls mental approach since returning in relief

Lorenzen renews confidence from bullpen

MILWAUKEE -- While Raisel Iglesias' switch from starter to reliever has been overwhelmingly successful for the Reds bullpen this season, Michael Lorenzen has performed in similar fashion and also has undisputed positive results in helping solidify the relief unit.

Lorenzen entered Saturday with a 2.39 ERA in 17 appearances since making his season debut in late June. He had been on the disabled list all season with right elbow inflammation and mononucleosis. Over nine games since July 9, including his scoreless seventh inning in Friday's 7-4 win over the Brewers, he has a 0.66 ERA with one earned run in 13 2/3 innings.

Mostly a starter last season, Lorenzen was projected to start this season until he was shut down in Spring Training. Now that he's enjoyed success from the bullpen, is this his future?

"For me personally, I think it's too early to define all of these guys," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Defining the need of the organization is going to play a role in this also. When we came into the season … we didn't have our best staff. We weren't healthy and trying to do the best we could to survive."

Lorenzen noted that he will pitch wherever he is needed to help the team, but also has a preference.

"The first part is you want to win," Lorenzen said. "I want to play for a team that's winning, whether I'm in the bullpen or starting. The personal goal is I want to start. I know I can be elite. I know I've shown success in the bullpen, but that's not what is bringing the success. It's the mindset behind it and the changes I've made."

Lorenzen, 24, overhauled his mental approach to pitching without making mechanical changes. It was mandated by his 2015 results -- he was 4-9 with a 5.40 ERA in 27 games, including 21 starts, but 1-7 with a 7.18 ERA in his final 16 games.

"There's a lot of maturing that went on this past offseason," Lorenzen said. "That was because I got my teeth kicked in the second half of last season. I'm glad it happened. It's not going to let me get away with it anymore. It's experience. It's time to grow and keep doing what I'm doing. I'm on the right track now."

The mental approach has manifested itself in the data. According to Statcast™, his four-seam fastball is up to an average of 96 mph in 2016, from 94 in '15. His slider is up to 90 mph, from 86 mph, with an increased spin rate. When he uses the four-seamer, he's been able to get more rise and hitters are having a tougher time catching up to it.

"I can face Ryan Braun and my mentality is if I go 2-0 on him, am I going to have the amount of confidence I need to say 'here's a four-seam fastball or a two-seam fastball' and challenge him? Or is it going to be, 'What if he hits it?' There is no 'what if he hits it' anymore," Lorenzen said. "I have so much confidence now. Each and every pitch, I'm challenging guys and saying, 'There is no fear here. There is no doubt.' If I throw this pitch with total conviction, it's going to be a good pitch."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.