PHILADELPHIA — Michael Lorenzen is a lot of things: Smart, affable, talented, a diversely-skilled pitcher and an elite athlete.
The list goes on.
What he isn’t, though, is simple. He has seven different pitches on his palette, for starters. His thought processes, the way he meticulously collects, filters, challenges, tests and ultimately stores information is as complex as it gets.
So, it was a little jarring to hear him say on Sunday — the day after he stymied the White Sox for the second time in a little over a week — that his outings were starting to feel simple.
“It feels really good to show up and feel in control,” he said. “It feels really simple. I’m trusting my catchers. I’ve hardly shaken off a pitch. They’ve done a great job handling the game plan inside the game. And I’m just trying to execute pitches.”
It sounds routine, right? Make a plan, trust a plan and execute it. But, it’s never been that easy for Lorenzen.
It’s not just that he has seven pitches. He has seven quality pitches. You can get the wheels spinning pretty good in your head trying to figure when, where and to whom to throw those pitches, in what sequence the first time through, the second time through, etc. — not to mention all the varying mechanical adjustments it takes to keep all those pitches sharp.
Here’s a window into how dialed-in to details he is. He absolutely hates wearing long sleeves under his jersey. But, a couple of years ago, he became aware that he was tipping his pitches. The veins in his muscled arms are so pronounced, teams could literally see how he was changing his grip in his glove by the way his veins were moving in his forearm.
Thus, even on the hottest days, Lorenzen’s arms will be covered.
Another example. He was having trouble getting his body loose for day games. He took a couple of day beatings earlier this season and got to work on the problem.
“I made an adjustment,” he said. “I’m waking up the body a lot better. I really analyzed why I was feeling tight during the day and where am I feeling tight and let’s hammer that out and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Even when I’d throw my bullpens during the day, I’d feel tight in certain areas.
“I don’t know if it’s just being in bed or sleeping in different beds, but I made sure I got with the training staff and the strength staff and we hammered it out.”
It took most of April for Lorenzen to lop a couple of pitches out of his mix. It varies, but for the most part, his curveball and cutter didn’t make the cut. He’s also come to trust the game-planning data and methods of pitching coach Chris Fetter and the analytics team.
The results have validated his trust. Lorenzen is 4-2 in his last six starts, with a 1.83 ERA. Five of the eight earned runs he’s allowed in 39.1 innings came in one start. Hitters are slashing .169/.208/.272 against him.
“There’s been times, here and there, when I kind of drift off,” he said. “But, I’ve been doing a really good job of getting back to where I need to be. I think that’s been the biggest difference. You drift off course and, all of a sudden, you are a mile away, looking back and thinking, ‘Oh man, how did I get here?’”
Lately, he’s been able to reel himself back in on one or two pitches.
“That’s where the consistency comes from,” he said.
Facing the White Sox in back-to-back starts tested his resolve, for sure. He was perfect for 5.2 innings on May 27 in Detroit and ended up allowing two unearned runs in 6.2 innings. On Saturday in Chicago, he was even better, allowing one run and two hits in seven innings, with six strikeouts.
How did Lorenzen approach the White Sox lineup the second time?
“You try not to overthink it,” he said, probably a sentence he hasn’t uttered much over his nine big-league seasons. “We went with the same approach, just expanded (the strike zone) a little more with two strikes. But, I felt like they weren’t letting me get to two strikes. They know how many strikes I’m throwing (68%). So, they were swinging early.
“We saw their game plan, how they switched it against me and we attacked it.”
Lorenzen chose to sign with the Tigers this offseason because he believed in the club’s commitment to and investment in biomechanics. He believed Fetter, Juan Nieves and Robin Lund could, through their data and technology, take him to higher level as a starting pitcher.
He bought-in to the physical side of it immediately. He’s now fully invested in the mental side, too.
“It is a huge win,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to keep it simple. But, I feel like the Tigers have done a good job leading me to that. Obviously, it’s not how my brain naturally wants to work. It’s taken me some time to get the proper information and then to buy-in to it.
“It’s like, ‘I see what you’re showing me and now I can buy into it because it makes sense.’”
Around the horn
— Tigers pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Alex Faedo, both on the injured list because of different finger injuries, will be examined by the same specialist in Philadelphia tomorrow. Rodriguez is out because of a ruptured pulley muscle in his left index finger. Faedo is dealing with an issue near the fingernail of his right middle finger.
— Manager AJ Hinch was encouraged by lefty Tarik Skubal’s 12-pitch rehab start at West Michigan Sunday. “The best news I got was that he felt awesome,” he said. Skubal has returned to Detroit and will train in Toledo with the Mud Hens while the Tigers are gone. His next rehab start will likely be back at West Michigan.
— Right-hander Matt Manning (broken foot) is scheduled to throw another live batting-practice session Tuesday. He is expected to start his rehab assignment after that.
— Philadelphia was Hinch’s last stop as a player. He finished his career with the Phillies in 2004. “I got booed once,” he said, laughing. “That’s the best compliment that the Philly fans can give you, right?” The Phillies, with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, went on their championship run the year after Hinch retired. “Maybe that was an indication it was time for me to go do something different,” he said.