ANAHEIM — When Michael Lorenzen hit free agency this past offseason after seven seasons with the Reds, his top priority was finding a club that would allow him to give starting pitching another try after mostly pitching in relief with Cincinnati.
When his hometown Angels showed interest, Lorenzen thought it was the perfect match and jumped at the opportunity, signing a one-year deal worth $7 million in late November. Lorenzen, who was born in Anaheim and attended nearby Fullerton Union High School and Cal State Fullerton, shined in his first chance to start with the Angels in a 6-2 win over the Marlins on Monday, throwing six strong innings to match his win total from last season.
“It was fun,” Lorenzen said. “I’d been looking forward to starting for a really long time and to be able to do it in front of my family and friends, it’s a dream come true. I’m super blessed for the opportunity. I remember thinking I’ll never get this opportunity again. It’s my first start for my hometown team and so just go for it. And so it was a blast.”
It was the longest start by an Angels pitcher this year through five games and was Lorenzen’s longest start since July 9, 2015, with the Reds. He made 21 starts with Cincinnati as a rookie in 2015 but made just a combined five starts over the next six seasons compared to 263 relief appearances. Lorenzen, though, felt like he had the stuff to start — he throws six different pitches: sinker, four-seamer, slider, changeup, cutter and curveball — but just wanted to get a chance to prove it this year.
“I worked really hard this offseason to get my stuff where it needs to be,” Lorenzen said. “It’s a lot more fun in the rotation. I’m able to use everything and set guys up certain ways for the next time through. It’s just more fun to do that instead of being limited. I have too many pitches to be limited in the bullpen, so I was just able to take advantage of my pitch profile.”
Lorenzen used his whole arsenal to his advantage against Miami, as he allowed just two hits and one run, while striking out seven. It was the second-most strikeouts in a game by Lorenzen in his career, behind only his eight punchouts in a start of 4 2/3 innings with the Reds on Sept. 20, 2020. He was also efficient, needing 89 pitches to get through six frames, and manager Joe Maddon said Lorenzen never looked fatigued or got out of rhythm with his delivery.
“I’ve seen him a lot in the National League, but I’ve never seen him start like that and dominate like that,” Maddon said. “He had his sinker working today and I loved it. I loved every bit of his performance. The breaking ball was good and so was the slider, but that bowling ball sinker, that plays all the time. He could’ve gone even deeper but before the game we wanted him right around 85 [pitches] and that’s right around where he ended up.”
Lorenzen flashed swing-and-miss stuff, getting 14 whiffs, including six with his sinker, five with his changeup and one each with his four-seamer, slider and cutter. His lone mistake was surrendering a solo homer to Jesús Sánchez on a 1-0 cutter in the fourth inning. But the Angels had already scored four runs by then, thanks to a three-run blast from Brandon Marsh in the first and a solo shot from Jo Adell in the second.
Marsh and Adell combined to give the Angels two more insurance runs in the eighth with both youngsters connecting on RBI doubles. Marsh, who had four RBIs and is off to a hot start offensively this season, said he was pleased to provide some run support for Lorenzen in his Angels debut. Marsh also had a perfect view of Lorenzen’s stuff from center field, as Mike Trout was scratched from the lineup with a stomach illness but could return Tuesday.
“It was super fun and it’s easy playing behind him,” Marsh said of Lorenzen. “He looked good. He worked fast and got us off the field pretty quickly. It makes it a lot more fun for us hitters, just going in and being able to sit down and relax. He pitched phenomenal tonight.”