Mike Maroth retires

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Back when I practiced law, there was a partner who lost a big case. Millions of dollars at stake, and his client got creamed.  We all wanted to taunt him about it afterward, but he simply said “gentlemen, it takes one hell of a lawyer to lose a case as big as that.” We thought he was joking around, but there’s real truth there: if you’re simply no good, no one is ever going to give you the chance to fail that big.

Pitching can be like that.  If you stink, you’re gone.  But it takes a hell of a pitcher to lose a lot of games.  Mike Maroth was like that. He was the last pitcher to lose 20 games in a season when he lost 21 for the 2003 Tigers.  Yes, I know that the Tigers roster was way thin that year and someone had to pitch, but Maroth was good enough, healthy enough, and professional enough that Alan Trammell felt OK sending him out there day after day after day, where he eventually locked up loss number 21.

I wouldn’t normally make a point to post about a guy like Mike Maroth retiring, but baseball isn’t just about excellence. It’s about persistence too, and it’s about character. Mike Maroth showed both of those things in 2003. And after that dubious notoriety, he managed to put together a couple of good seasons, including one for a pennant winner in 2006. He was left off the postseason roster that year. He probably didn’t like that much, but I have this feeling that he got OK with it eventually. He’d been through worse on a baseball diamond.

Good luck with whatever you do, Mike.

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).