Donald Fehr could return as MLBPA head due to Michael Weiner’s health

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reports that an old face could come back to the players’ union:

With the condition of cancer-stricken union chief Michael Weiner not improving, MLB Players Association officials have discussed the possibility of a return of his predecessor, NHLPA director Donald Fehr, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Fehr’s possible return — in some role, be it advisor, leader or something altogether different — would be very strange. He led the union at a very different time and when the issues between it and the league were very different. More significantly, the tone of the relationship was much different. It was often combative, and necessarily so given the times in which he ran the show. Part of his transition out of the MLBPA and the ascension of Michael Weiner, in my view, was an acknowledgement that those great battles of the past were over and a new, more collaborative effort was what was needed.

Fehr, of course, has gone on to lead the NHL player’s union, where battling was and continues to be more of the order of the day. As Passan notes, there is no indication that he’s ready to leave that job and no comment from anyone involved as to whether he’d come to assist the union.

The bigger takeaway here, however, is Weiner’s health. I’ve never met the man but all accounts of him I’ve ever heard have been incredibly positive. He’s a smart and thoughtful leader, well respected by his coworkers, the players he represents and the league with which he negotiates and, occasionally does battle.

Here’s hoping his battle with cancer is a successful one and that the reports of someone needing to take his place prove to be wrong.

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).