Thornburg Gets Off To Hot Start For Timber Rattlers
GRAND CHUTE – As one of the more highly regarded prospects in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system playing at Low A Wisconsin, starting pitcher Tyler Thornburg is off to a solid start to the 2011 season.
Thornburg was the starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers in the second game of Sunday’s double header against the Peoria Chiefs, which the Rattlers won 2-1 in the shortened seven-inning game.
“It went well,” said Thornburg. “I think coming into yesterday, the main thing I was working on was working ahead and staying ahead. And I was pounding the fastballs early. I was working ahead, and when I did get in trouble, it was because I was going 1-0 and 2-1 and stuff like that.”
Thornburg didn’t get the victory, though he pitched a solid 5.2 innings, which matched a career high as a professional.
He gave up three hits, one run, none earned and had eight strikeouts on the day. Of his 78 pitches, 54 were for strikes.
“It’s always huge,” Thornburg said of pounding the strikezone. “Whenever people have bad outings, it’s always because they’re getting behind and hitters looking fastball, and they’re able to put a good swing on it. It’s probably a huge thing, especially overlooked in this game.”
Sunday’s outing continued what is turning out to be a good beginning to the still-young season for the righthander.
In two games started and in 8.2 innings pitched overall, Thornburg has given up only one earned run, compiled a 1.04 ERA and is holding opposing hitters to a .194 batting average.
“It’s gone well as far as the team goes,” said Thornburg. “We haven’t gotten rolling yet. Everyone’s just been kind of on and off lately. Pitchers really haven’t gotten their pitch counts up and haven’t really gotten into it yet. It’ll take about a week or so more and then we’ll be getting rolling.”
It’s only Thornburg’s second season in professional baseball, with this year following up last year’s debut with the rookie-level Helena Brewers.
Last year Thornburg had a 1.94 ERA in small sample size of only 23.1 innings, though very impressive was his peripheral statistic of 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
Part of the reason for the young righty’s small workload last year was an oblique injury that limited him, though Thornburg says that problem is behind him.
“I worked hard in the offseason to take care of that and do as much preventative stuff as possible so I don’t have it flare up at all, or anything like that,” said Thornburg. “Because that’s the first time I ever had something like that happen.”
Because of his smallish stature standing at 5-11 and weighing 185 pounds, there’s been the occasional comparison to San Francisco Giants star pitcher Tim Lincecum.
While honored by such an assessment, Thornburg would rather pave his own way to the majors.
“You try not to look too much into that,” said Thornburg. “You can’t really compare yourself when you haven’t even pitched above Low A, Two-A. You know, [Linecum is] a two-time Cy Young Award winner. But it’s nice to hear that.”
As a third-round draft choice of the Brewers last season, Thornburg thinks there’s a little more pressure on him than, say, some of his teammates who might have gone in the 20th, 30th, even 40th round.
Regardless, he tries not to let any burden get to him.
“There is, but once you start getting into the season, you can’t really be thinking about that,” said Thornburg. “If you have a bad outing, [you can't say], ‘There’s so much pressure on me.’ I do like a little bit of pressure. I perform well under pressure.”
So far the early returns on Thornburg have been good, and he’s looking forward to working his way up the organizational ladder.
“As quickly as possible, I hope,” said Thornburg. “As quickly as they move me.”