Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#48 Lary Sorensen

Card:  This is Larry Sorensen's 6th Topps card.  He would have two more cards after this.  His rookie card was in the '78 set.

Pic: Sorensen is either following through with a pitch, or he was decades ahead of his time and he is getting ready to fist bump his catcher.

Player:  Lary Sorensen was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 8th round of the 1976 draft.  The right-handed pitcher out of the University of Michigan moved quickly through the Brewers minor league system and made his MLB debut June 7, 1977.  He was plugged into the Milwaukee rotation making 20 starts as a rookie, recording a 4.36 ERA and 7-10 record.

After a rough April to start the '78 season, Sorensen settled in as a durable pitcher and came within one out of completing all six of his starts in May.  Sorensen had 11 wins by the All-Star break and was selected to the AL squad.  The 22 year-old threw three scoreless innings in a losing effort. By season's end Sorensen had started 36 games, with 17 complete games, three shutouts, 18 wins with a 3.21 ERA over 280 innings of work.  Sorensen pitched to contact as evidenced by his mere 78 strikeouts and 50 walks, inducing many ground outs with his sinker.  Sorensen followed up his breakout year with a solid '79 season winning 15 games with a 3.98 ERA over 235 innings. 

Sorensen began to show some wear and tear in 1980 and became quite hittable, allowing 242 hits in 195 innings.  Still, he managed to win 12 games with a 3.68 ERA. His ability to induce double plays helped him get out jams as his 54/45 strikeout to walk ratio was troubling.  Sorensen was traded in December with David Green, Dave LaPoint and Sixto Lezcano to the St. Louis Cardinals for Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich.

Sorensen made 23 starts for the Cardinals in the strike-shortened '81 season and did fairly well with a 7-7 record and a 3.27 ERA.  Sorensen was again traded in the off season.  This time in a three team deal that sent Sorensen to Cleveland and saw Bo Diaz go to Philadelphia and Lonnie Smith land in St. Louis.

The '82 season was a rough one for Sorensen.  He started 30 games but lost his last seven decisions to finish 10-15 with a career worst 5.61 ERA.  Sorensen bounced back with a 12 win season in '83.  He lowered his ERA to a more respectable 4.24 and logged 222 innings.  Sorensen was a free agent and left Cleveland for Oakland. 

Sorensen struggled mightily with the A's in '84, giving up 240 hits in 183 innings.  He made 21 starts and had 25 relief appearances.  His inability to miss bats was catching up with him and he finished with a 6-13 record and 4.91 ERA.  The A's let Sorensen go and he signed with the Cubs where he spent the '85 season pitching in middle relief and making a few spot starts. Sorensen pitched in 45 games with a 4.26 ERA.  Sorensen was released in spring training the following year.

Sorensen missed the start if the '86 season as he was given a 60 day suspension for his part in the Pittsburgh cocaine scandal.  He spent the rest of the year pitching in the minors, first for the Phillies organization and then Montreal.  He made the Expos opening day team in '87 and pitched out of the pen with a few starts.  After three months and a 4.72 ERA, the veteran was sent back down to AAA in June and released at the end of the year.

After spending most of '88 in the minors, Sorensen pitched unremarkably in twelve games for the Giants.  Sorensen was brought back the following year but did not make the team. Sorensen's playing career was over at age 33.

Stuff: Sinker, slider

Flipside: You know it was a bad year, as Topps really drags out the wordy description on the last highlight because there wasn't thing else positive to say.

Oddball:  Unfortunately Sorensen has struggled mightily with alcoholism since his retirement resulting in numerous jail and prison sentences for seven DUI's.  He seemed to be in recovery in 2007 but was found unconscious after he drove his car into a ditch on February 2, 2008.  He registered a 0.48 blood alcohol content and was eventually sent back to prison.  Experts believe a BAC that high is enough to kill all but hardcore alcoholics.

History:  Sorensen at his best was a decent to above average pitcher who could log plenty of innings.  Adjusting for the '81 strike, Sorensen averaged 225 innings per year from '78-'83 with a 3.97 ERA.  Eventually his lack of a strikeout pitch caught up with him and he finished with a 93-103 career record.  
In retirement he provided color commentary on college baseball games for ESPN.  He also was on the Detroit Tigers radio team for a few years before leaving to deal with his alcoholism in June of '98. 

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