Report: Cardinals interested in Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris

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Now that Rafael Furcal is done for the season following Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, it’s not surprising to hear that the Cardinals are asking around about shortstops. But this report from MLB Network’s Peter Gammons indicates that they are also in the market for a starting pitcher.

This one is a bit of a head-scratcher, as the Cardinals have more starters than rotation spots at the moment, even after the loss of Chris Carpenter. While Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook are set to occupy the first four spots in the rotation, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller are currently competing for the fifth spot. Trevor Rosenthal was sent to the bullpen last week, but he’s also capable of starting. And that’s not even including top prospects like Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, who could be options later this year. Still, if the Cardinals wanted either pitcher, they certainly have the prospect inventory to get a deal done.

Harrell, 27, posted a 3.76 ERA and 140/78 K/BB ratio over 193 2/3 innings last season and won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2015. Norris has shown some potential at times, but he’s coming off a disappointing 4.65 ERA in 29 starts last year. The 28-year-old right-hander was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and can become a free agent after 2015. As I noted on Twitter earlier this week, Norris has a 2.74 ERA in 15 career starts against the Cardinals and a 4.77 ERA in 83 games against everybody else.

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).