Michael Lorenzen ‘excited to get started,’ make season debut with Tigers

Detroit News

Detroit — Of course, Michael Lorenzen would’ve preferred his first start as a Tiger to come sooner.

But, all things considered, this isn’t the worst of scenarios: He’ll be taking the ball in some unseasonably warm Michigan weather, and he’ll be facing off against his good friend and former teammate, Anthony DeSclafani.

“I told him he’s lucky I’m not hitting,” Lorenzen said with a big grin.

Lorenzen, the lanky, shaggy-haired, veteran right-hander, will make his 2023 season debut Saturday in the second game of the three-game series against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park.

It’ll also be his Tigers debut, after signing a one-year, $8.5 million contract this offseason.

Lorenzen has been sidelined with a left groin strain, but declared himself “1,000% healthy.” He was back in the Tigers’ clubhouse before Friday night’s game, after a rehab assignment in Toledo, where he made one start that was pretty ugly from a box-score perspective — four runs on two hits in 2⅓ innings, with three walks and two strikeouts — but he’s hardly sweating that.

“My stuff’s been great. With those games, it’s tough not to work on stuff, so there’s a little bit too much of me trying to work little things and force things,” he said. “The only thing that matters is winning, and I’m excited to get started. … But I checked those boxes.”

Lorenzen joins the Tigers’ rotation, just as Matt Manning is leaving it — on the injured list with a right foot fracture after taking a ball off it the other night. Manning has received multiple opinions, and is opting against surgery.

Lorenzen spent last season with the Los Angeles Angels, returning to the full-time starter role for the first time since his rookie year with the Cincinnati Reds in 2015. He was 8-6 with a 4.24 ERA and 1.280 WHIP in 18 starts.

His presence gives the Tigers’ rotation another veteran to go with Eduardo Rodriguez and Matthew Boyd.

“It’s been a long wait for him,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “Physically, he feels great. I know he wants to contribute. I know he wants to take the ball. … I think he’s champing to get out there and hopefully throw strike zone. What we’d like to see out of him is be an efficient pitcher who challenges the strike zone.

“When he becomes a dominant strike thrower, he’s gonna find success because he’s got so many different pitches and so many options he can use.

“It’ll be fun to get him out there.”

More: Javy Báez back in Tigers’ lineup day after benching; AJ Hinch says ‘message is clear’

Lorenzen, 31, said he probably could’ve rejoined the Tigers sooner than Saturday’s first start, but being new to the team, there was a level of trust that had to be built upon between him and management. They need to know he’s being honest about his health, he said, and proceeding with caution made sense, he also said.

Still, he acknowledged it’s been a bit frustrating being on the sidelines while his team has struggled. The Tigers took a 3-9 record into the series opener against the Giants.

Lorenzen cautioned that it’s still early, and that the Tigers’ early season schedule did them no favors. He actually looked at the schedule after he signed, and was shocked by the gauntlet Detroit was dealt early.

That continues this week against a Giants team that is 5-7, but is expected make some noise in the National League West. DeSclafani, a right-hander, could help in determining just how far the Giants will go. He’s 1-0 with a 0.73 ERA, hoping to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2022 season. He was teammates with Lorenzen with the Reds from 2015 through 2020, before DeSclafani departed for the Giants.

“Me and him are really close, I definitely want to beat him,” Lorenzen said. “I definitely want to take the ball and go out and set the tone. That’s my job as a starting pitcher. That’s all of our jobs as starting pitchers. I’m looking forward to getting that opportunity.”

Meadows joins teammates

Outfielder Austin Meadows has rejoined the Tigers and plans to work out with them when they’re in Detroit, while he is sidelined amid his ongoing battle with anxiety and mental health.

Meadows worked out at Comerica Park on his own Thursday, and was working out with teammates Friday.

“He’ll run through our pregame stuff today, get his body moving, and just be a player again,” Hinch said Friday. “It was good to see him. We’ll continue to monitor his progress and see what’s next for him. We don’t have a plan set in place other than this is a good sign that he’s able to get back to the ballpark and get some baseball work done.

“My understanding is he’s going to do as much as he feels like he can do.”

That will include pregame warm-ups and batting practice, and working with trainers.

Meadows, 27, is in his second season with the Tigers. He missed extended time last season while addressing his mental health. He began the 2023 season on the Tigers’ roster, but he went on the IL on April 8.

Tigers president Scott Harris said the Tigers “fully support” Meadows decision to prioritize his mental health.

Around the horn

∎With so many of the Tigers’ heralded young pitchers battling injuries in the last year — Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo, Spencer Turnbull and Manning — Skubal was asked if it feels like the team is a bit “snake-bitten.”

“Sure,” said Skubal, who is playing catch six times a week these days while recovering from a left elbow strain. “It sucks, injuries are never fun. … I feel the same way you guys do. I don’t want to be on the sidelines, but it’s part of the game. You live and you learn. Hopefully, this is the last one for me.”

∎Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop isn’t hitting much, but he has walked four times in 23 plate appearances, or 17.4%. He had a walk rate under 4% in 2022. Hinch is pleased he’s taking the Tigers’ new strike-zone philosophy seriously.

“He knows his path to playing time is gonna involve controlling the strike zone,” Hinch said. “He’s gotta get better plate discipline. … He needs to show a trend in the right direction, and we’ll reward him for that.”

∎Hinch was asked about Manning receiving multiple medical opinions. “You’re gonna find we’re gonna be very thorough with reviews, whether it’s getting second or third opinions, whatever we need to have a more well-rounded view of everyone,” he said. “Extra opinions are a good thing.”

∎Right-hander Beau Brieske (right ulnar nerve entrapment) played catch Thursday for the first time since his surgery. He is expected to throw a bullpen session at some point next week.

∎One of the Tigers’ top prospects, Colt Keith, had a three-run, walk-off homer for Double-A Erie on Thursday.

Giants at Tigers

First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

SCOUTING REPORT

RHP Anthony DeSclafani (1-0, 0.73), Giants: He’s hoping to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2022 season, in which he made just five starts for San Francisco.

RHP Michael Lorenzen (first start), Tigers: After signing a one-year, $8.5 million contract with Detroit this offseason, he makes his season debut after battling a groin injury.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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