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The rise of the two-way player: Is next Ohtani already out there?

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The constructs that define professional baseball infuriate Michael Lorenzen, enough to keep him up some nights. Lorenzen, an established reliever and a hopeful outfielder, likes to say that his sport's two favorite words are "just because." He made his point by rattling off a series of questions that lack definitive answers.

Why do we stand outside for 45 minutes before every game?

Why do we show up six hours early if we play every single day for six months?

How come someone can't pitch and hit in the big leagues?

"Just because," Lorenzen said, repeating a response he has grown tired of hearing. "'You can't do it. It's too hard.' The only one who has the right to say it's too hard is Shohei Ohtani because he's the only one that's done it. No one else has the right to say anything, really. It drives me nuts. Since when is that a way of thinking in sports? The four-minute mile was impossible until it wasn't. I just don't get how we haven't learned from that time and time again."

Ohtani came over from Japan last year and accomplished something that hadn't been done in nearly a century, emerging as a dominant starting pitcher and an exceptional designated hitter in being named the American League Rookie of the Year.

He will spend the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, unable to pitch but still allowed to hit for the Los Angeles Angels. In his wake, a wave of aspiring two-way players has emerged. Four of the players -- Kaleb Cowart, Jared Walsh, Bo Way and William English -- also are employed by the Angels organization. Lorenzen is attempting something similar with the Cincinnati Reds, as are Matt Davidson with the Texas Rangers and Brendan McKay, the fourth overall pick in 2017, with the Tampa Bay Rays.

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