Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers – #63 Tyler Thornburg

BBtJN LogoAfter an eventful weekend in Milwaukee courtesy of Brewers On Deck which only makes the pain of the next 63 days a little greater, we trudge on toward Opening Day.

Today’s profile focuses on a player who saw some time at three different levels of the Brewers’ organization in 2012.

thornburg

He is the Texas-native…

Tyler Thornburg.

Tyler Michael Thornburg pitched in 29 games in 2012. Of those, 21 were in the minors. Of those, 13 were for the Class-AA affiliate Huntsville Stars and eight were for the Class-AAA affiliate Nashville Sounds. That leaves (math majors) eight games played at the big league level.

Of those 29 games, 24 were starts. Thornburg started every game he pitched in the minor league regular season. He made three starts in a Brewers uniform along with five appearances out of the bullpen.

Part of the reason that Thornburg only appeared in the number of games that he did was because of some arm fatigue and a wrist issue. I think the latter contributed to the former by the end of the season. There were also some scheduling oddities with which Thornburg had to deal in 2012.

Thornburg had put together a very strong first half of the season as a Huntsville Stars starting pitcher. He was 8-1 in 13 starts with an even 3.00 ERA. He tallied 71 strikeouts in 75.0 innings pitched and held opposing hitters to a .212 batting average. He had walked 24 on the year to that point and allowed 57 hits which equates to a 1.08 WHIP. This was all by the middle of June. In short, he earned a promotion (which he tweeted about to let us all know). The original plan was to have Thornburg play in the Double-A All-Star Game and then join the Nashville Sounds.

Plans changed.

The reason for the change was an injury to Brewers starting pitcher Shaun Marcum. Now the third member of Milwaukee’s Opening Day rotation to succumb to injury, Marcum was missing a start due to “elbow tightness”. Thornburg was relatively on schedule to pitch the night of Tuesday, June 19th but ended up making that start in a Brewers uniform at Miller Park instead of that Double-A All-Star Game. The irony there is that Thornburg had been considered to skip over Triple-A a couple of weeks earlier when Marco Estrada was injured. Mike Fiers’ phone rang instead that time, but Thornburg ended up leapfrogging Nashville after all.

He had a very good start to the game and got a lot of firsts out of the way before tiring and giving up back-to-back-to-back home runs into his fifth inning of work against a very dangerous Toronto Blue Jays lineup. To be fair, it was obvious that in his first big league start Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was trying hard to get Thornburg through five innings to qualify for his first big league victory. It wasn’t in the cards that day nor at all in 2012 as Thornburg finished without a decision, a 4.50 ERA, 1.409 WHIP, 20 K, 7 BB, 8 HR in 22.0 big league innings.

That’s a small and extremely sporadic sample size though, so don’t read much of anything into those numbers.

Thornburg did bounce around the organization a little in the second half of the season and between dealing with coming out of the bullpen in Milwaukee, a wrist injury on the farm, and whatnot, he had a couple of long layoffs between outings. Here’s hoping that 2013 can be steady as she goes in terms of consistent playing time.

Thornburg turned 24 years old on September 29th and made one start on October 2nd last year. Still relatively young, Thornburg looks to open the 2013 season atop the Nashville Sounds rotation. The Brewers want to give him every opportunity to contribute as a starting pitcher despite numerous publications and prospect “experts” who foresee any significant Major League future hinging on a full-time move to the bullpen.

That being said, Thornburg is still ranked as the second-best prospect in the Brewers organization (behind Wily Peralta) and was singled out as having the system’s best curveball by Baseball America. That pitch along with a fastball that hits the mid-90s make for a good base package. If he can get his third pitch up to an average offering the Brewers really might have another long-term rotation contributor.

It remains to be seen though which is why Thornburg is likely ticketed for the minors come April. He’s got time to get better but will be ready as needed. Rare is the team which makes it through a season with just five starting pitchers. Obviously based on early season results along with who else is pitching in Nashville with him, but Thornburg will be one of the first names on the list to cover innings that need to be covered.

Look for #63 in Phoenix this spring if you’ll be down there and take the time to pay him some attention. Chances are good that he’ll be a name you’ll need to know soon enough if you don’t already.

You can follow Tyler Thornburg on Twitter: @TylerThornburg

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

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