Sep 18, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Tyler Thornburg pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
RH Relief Pitcher
2014 Salary: $505,000
2015 Outlook: Pre-Arb 2
Tyler Thornburg began the 2014 season as one of the Brewers three ‘late-inning’ guys and after allowing a run in his first outing against Atlanta, strung together 13 scoreless appearances, spanning 13 2/3 innings. The Brewers got off to a tremendous start and so did Thornburg. Milwaukee won 12 of 14 games that Thornburg appeared in during April, and the young righty won three games and earned ‘holds’ in four more.
Then as the Brewers’ season started to slide, Thornburg’s went south as well, as he allowed hits in ten of 11 May appearances, and gave up runs in six of them.
After a good outing on June 3 (2 IP, 1 BB, 1 K), Thornburg’s season came crashing to an end. In a 15-5 loss to Pittsburgh three days later, Tyler gave up three hits, four walks, and five earned runs in one inning.
The next day he went on the D.L. with weakness in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
He would not pitch again in 2014.
On July 30, he was moved to the 60-day D.L. and two weeks later was shut down completely for the year. He received a ‘platelet rich plasma’ injection, a newish procedure that in theory speeds up injury recovery times.
Thornburg was activated from the disabled list in early November and expects to be ready to compete for a bullpen role in Spring Training.
The 26-year-old from Riverwood High School in Sandy Springs, GA drew comparisons to San Francisco starter Tim Lincecum with his over-the-top delivery and repertoire. Thornburg can throw his fastball in the mid-90s, averaging 92-94. He also throws a knee-buckling curve ball and a change that makes it to the plate at a leisurely 70 MPH, barely breaking the speed limit on I-94.
Milwaukee drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2010 amateur draft and after pitching in the minors for parts of three seasons, got called up to Milwaukee in June 2012.
During his first two seasons, the Brewers used Thornburg as a spot starter, starting ten of 26 games in 2012 and 2013. With a solid starting staff slated to begin the 2014 season for Milwaukee, Thornburg was moved to a late inning relief role, where he thrived until he came up lame in June.
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2015 and Beyond
Thornburg should return as a Brewer, as long as he proves he can bounce back from his elbow injury and return to previous form.
As a ‘Pre-Arb 2,’ he is at the Brewers mercy as far as getting a raise or taking a pay cut, but based on his injury-shortened season and his high ceiling, the Brewers should treat him well. I would expect him to earn somewhere between $500-$600K for 2015.
With the Brewers closer spot up for grabs next year, barring an unexpected return by Francisco Rodriguez, Thornburg should be in the mix for the ninth inning role. At the very least, a healthy Thornburg would fit well in a set-up position, taking the ball in the 7th or 8th inning as needed.
But first of all, he needs to get healthy. If he can do that, his talent should move him to one of the key roles in the Brewers ‘pen.