The 2011 schedule is released. And there was much rejoicing

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Next year’s entire schedule — sans the still-possible Diamondbacks-Giants series in Taiwan — has been released. Here’s the actual schedule. Here’s some verbiage from MLB.com talking about how glorious it is.  And I suppose it might be glorious in places, but really dudes, it’s just a schedule.

The most notable thing about it is the early start — March 31st — and the early end — September 28th — which was designed to avoid November baseball.  If we can avoid those more frequent late March-early April snow storms it will be just spiffy.  The All-Star Game is July 12th. Which is kind of a drag because that means there are real games that count on my birthday — July 14th — and rather than hosting some self-centered bacchanalia, I’ll be reading box scores and writing snarky And That Happened entries. Sigh.

I do very much like the Thursday afternoon start, though.  It’s way better to knock off the end of the week than the beginning, so we can all treat Opening Day (and The Day After Opening Day) as a national holiday and go have beers and watch baseball in downtown bars as God and Nature intended.

Final question: is it bad that, after writing that, I’m more excited for Opening Day 2011 right now than I am for today’s games and the remainder of the pennant race?

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).