Eric Byrnes lands roster spot on softball team

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byrnes-100505.jpgAfter going 3-for-32 and earning his release from the Seattle Mariners, it didn’t take long for Eric Byrnes to land on his feet.

The 34-year-old outfielder, who once stole 50 bases for the Arizona Diamondbacks (a feat the D-backs are still paying for), has earned a roster spot with a rec league softball team sponsored by Dutch Goose, a burger and beer pub in Menlo Park, Calif.

If you think this post is an audition for The Onion, you’d be mistaken. Here is Byrnes talking to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com:

“This is going to be a blast,” he said. “Playing with my buddies. I can’t wait for my first hit. I’m going to ask for the ball.”

That’s because there haven’t been enough hits for Byrnes the past three seasons.

Gilbert beat me to the punch line, but that’s OK as the Mariners should provide plenty more opportunities this season. As far as Byrnes goes, he’s provided enough already.

In addition to his poor hitting, Byrnes drew attention when he pulled back his bat on a suicide squeeze bunt, leaving Ichiro hung out to dry, then ducked the media by exiting the clubhouse on – of all things – a bicycle.

(I swear this isn’t an Onion story)

Byrnes says he expects that his MLB career is finished, and if so he’ll spend more time with his family (don’t they all say that?) and working on a clothing business that he founded with his wife. Also don’t be surprised to see him focus on a broadcasting career.

“I’ve always had two passions in my life,” Byrnes said. “One of them was playing sports and the other was talking about sports.”

Maybe Byrnes is an odd guy. Maybe he’s a free spirit. Maybe he’s just a “dude.”

Either way, his softball team should be pretty good this year.

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Reds having Michael Lorenzen prepare as a two-way player

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For decades, a legitimate “two-way player” — a player who functions as both a pitcher and as a position player — was nothing but a fantasy. The skill sets required for both are too distinct and require too much prep work, it was thought. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani shattered that illusion in 2018, posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter while posting a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher.

Since then, several more players have been considered in two-way roles. The Rangers signed Matt Davidson earlier this month and could potentially use him as a corner infielder as well as a reliever. Also earlier this month, James Loney signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters, who plan to use him as both a first baseman and as a pitcher.

You can add Michael Lorenzen of the Reds to that list. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds will have Lorenzen prepare this spring as a two-way player. He could both start and relieve while occasionally playing in the outfield. Lorenzen, in fact, took batting practice with the outfielders on Thursday. Previously, he had taken batting practice as extra work following a workout with fellow pitchers.

Lorenzen said, “It’s fantastic, the effort they’re putting in. A lot of the excuses were, ‘You know, we don’t want to overwork him.’ Well, let’s just sit down and talk about it then. They were willing to sit down and talk about it, which is one of the reasons why I love this staff so much and why I think the front office did a great job [hiring] this staff. They’re willing to find solutions for problems.”

New manager David Bell said, “We’ve put together a plan for the whole spring, knowing we can adjust it at any time. We didn’t want to go into each day not knowing what he’s going to do. We all felt better, he did, too. He was part of putting it together.”

Lorenzen, 27, pitched 81 innings last year with a 3.11 ERA and a 54/34 K/BB ratio. He’s one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers as well. Last year, he swatted four homers and knocked in 10 runs in 34 trips to the plate. The last pitcher to hit at least four homers in a season was the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, who did it in both 2014 (four) and 2015 (five). Lorenzen also posted a 1.043 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, there have been only 11 pitchers to OPS over 1.000 (min. 30 PA). The only ones to do it in the 2000’s are Lorenzen last year, Micah Owings in 2007 (1.033) and Dontrelle Willis in 2011 (1.032).