Tyler Thornburg, future Brewers’ closer?


Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The closer’s role has been something that the Milwaukee Brewers have not had a solid answer to for awhile now. While Francisco Rodriguez currently holds the reigns to the role, will he be here in the future?

Perhaps the Brewers already have a player they could transition to the role.

It’s been no secret that since Tyler Thornburg came up that he would play a versatile pitching role for the Brew Crew. Between starting, mid-relief and long relief, Thornburg has seen it all in terms of pitching. However, could closing out games become new territory for him to tread in the future? Perhaps so.

In this young 2014 season, manager Ron Roenicke has placed a tremendous amount of confidence in Thornburg who has made eight appearances in 15 games, which puts him in a tie with Will Smith for the most appearances. The Brewers haven’t really had much use for Thornburg as a starter (though he could still do it) with the addition of Smith who could fall into the rotation should he need to. Plus with Jimmy Nelson almost on the scene in Milwaukee, Thornburg’s time on the staff may solely be spent in the bullpen.

At the moment, Thornburg has been one of the team’s most consistent relievers next Brandon Kintzler. I thought at one time maybe Kintzler was in line for the closer’s role, but I guess that was not the case when the team re-signed K-Rod and put Jim Henderson in that set-up role, a position Kintzler held onto last year. Whatever the future holds for Thornburg can’t be determined at this moment, but it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to stick him into the game in the ninth inning.

Thornburg doesn’t have the same electric stuff that say Craig Kimbrel offers, but he does have the talent to pitch in critical situations. Despite his career K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) of 7.3, which is pretty average, Thornburg also has a career LOB% (percentage of batters left on base) of 84.4 percent. That’s pretty tremendous and for a reliever. He also doesn’t have much of a problem walking batters with a career BB/9 of 3.05. Yet again, that’s not exactly eye-popping, but it definitely can get the job done.

It’ll be interesting to see how Thornburg factors into the team’s plans in the coming years, especially after 2014 when they’ll have no set closer. Maybe Thornburg could get that role someday. He seems to have the makings for someone who could be a closer if the Brewers want to go in that direction.