Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin
By ANDREW GRUMAN  |  Last updated 8/12/13
MILWAUKEE -- When his starting rotation was struggling mightily in May, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke would often be asked about options in Triple-A. The question asked about top pitching prospect Tyler Thornburg wasn't about whether he could come up and help, but instead trying to figure out what was going on with the talented young right-hander. One glance at Thornburg's Triple-A numbers -- 0-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 15 starts -- and a demotion to Double-A would seem more likely than a promotion to the big leagues. But with injuries mounting for Milwaukee's pitching staff, the Brewers finally had to bank on his talent. Seven relief appearances and two starts into his time with the Brewers, Thornburg has looked like a totally different pitcher than the one struggling in Nashville. He's had command of all of his pitches, thrown strikes and has a 1.72 ERA in 31 13 innings. "You can't (explain it)," Roenicke said. "Hitters are obviously better (in the big leagues). It's hard to explain. Certainly confidence has to be a huge deal with what goes on. For some reason he's confident here and when he's gone out he's performed well. Then it just builds to the point where he knows if he goes in and makes his pitches that he's going to get people out." After three promising September outings in 2012, Thornburg was hoping to get more of an opportunity to compete for a rotation spot coming into this season. The 24-year-old was instead optioned back to Triple-A Nashville after just two spring training outings. Thornburg's struggles struck right away with the Sounds, as he had a 5.04 ERA in five April starts. When the Brewers needed pitching the most in May, Thornburg was pitching his worst, going 0-4 with a 8.20 ERA in six starts. How can a guy with such good stuff have those numbers in Triple-A? The Brewers felt it was a combination of bad luck and frustration. Those who watched Thornburg in Nashville claimed he was victimized by cheap hits and then ran into trouble by trying to be too fine. Opponent's batting average on balls in play against Thornburg in Triple-A was .380, well above average. His average of 10.49 strikeouts per nine innings with Nashville was a promising number, but Thornburg often found himself burned by trying to strike everybody out. "I think it's a case of not trying to do too much," Thornburg said. "I started off a little bit unlucky and then because everything seemed to be a hit, I was trying to do a little bit too much -- trying to make them not hit it. I think that's probably why I had so many strikeouts down there, but again my numbers were a lot higher. "Coming up here and talking to a few veterans like (Kyle) Lohse, helped me realize that it's not about doing the best pitch every time. You make your pitch and everything that happens past that you can't control." Like he's done with many of Milwaukee's young pitchers, Lohse has been willing to help Thornburg in any way he can. The veteran right-hander experienced struggles early in his career and now is trying to help young pitchers avoid falling into what hurt him. Young pitchers often times feel as if they need to blow every hitter away, but that's not the case and has been part of Lohse's message to Thornburg. "You want to impress everyone and do incredible every time out," Thornburg said. "Unfortunately in this game that's not going to be the case -- ever. It's pretty much just going with the flow. "If you need to locate a fastball down and away, you are throwing to locate a fastball down and away. You aren't worrying about trying to beat his bat, you aren't worrying about blowing it by him or anything like that. You are just worried about trying to make your pitch and everything past that helps your chance." Thornburg was called up for the first time this season when Marco Estrada went on the disabled list on June 5. Chosen because of his previous big league experience, Thornburg went out and tossed four scoreless innings and picked up his first career win before being sent back down. He went back to Nashville and posted a 3.86 ERA in four June starts, leading to the Brewers bringing him back up on June 28 when they needed extra coverage for a taxed bullpen. The stay was expected to be temporary, but Thornburg has been up ever since. After four relief appearances -- including three of four innings or more -- Thornburg was given the chance to start when the Brewers had a doubleheader in Chicago on July 30. He responded by tossing six scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and striking out six. Roenicke gave Thornburg another start Aug. 5 in San Francisco, and he didn't allow an earned run in six innings. "I was trying not to think about wanting to get in the rotation," Thornburg said. " I was pretty much just trying to concentrate on each outing and doing the best I can when I'm out there. I'm definitely pleased with this opportunity." As a guy who has bounced back and forth between the bullpen and starting rotation in his short big league career, Thornburg is happy to be in Milwaukee's rotation, but surprised himself at how quickly it has happened. "I was kind of hoping it would turn around in Nashville," Thornburg said. "I was trying to get a few good starts in a row there and then hopefully get an opportunity up here. That wasn't the case. It came a little bit different than anyone was expecting. "Last year I was hoping I could have got a couple of starts back-to-back in September, but the case was we were getting kind of close and guys were throwing well in the rotation. I didn't get that opportunity last year. I was hoping to get that opportunity down the road, but I didn't think it would be this soon." For the time being, Roenicke is going to a six-man rotation to allow Thornburg to continue to work as a starting pitcher. How long that will last may depend on how well he performs in his coming starts. "He has the stuff. It's not a question of the stuff," Roenicke said. "Now, can he maintain those types of velocities throughout the game? I don't know yet. The last time he did and was still 93 (mph) in his last inning. We hadn't seen that before." Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

11-year-old writes letters to NBA teams to tout Monmouth player

Doug Marrone affirms that Blake Bortles is Jaguars’ quarterback

Dan Quinn says he's never got over the Falcons' Super Bowl LI collapse

Trevor Siemian shoulder injury more severe than originally thought

Former Cub David Ross to appear on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Julio Jones to be evaluated, may need surgery on injured foot

Report: Cowboys OT Doug Free considering retirement

Browns WR Josh Gordon applying for reinstatement

Report: Nerve damage in Jaylon Smith’s leg not improving

James Harden reveals why he stopped dating Khloe Kardashian

Report: Manziel attracting 'real interest' at NFL Combine

Box Score 3/1: It's all about Durant and his knee

The 'Simone Biles vs. Mr. T dance-off you didn't know you wanted until now' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Daryl Morey burns up the phone lines

The top 10 MLB left fielders headed into spring training 2017

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in Major League Baseball

The best sports movies available to stream right now

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Box Score 2/28: Fat Tuesday means athletes on floats.

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Daryl Morey burns up the phone lines

The 'Simone Biles vs. Mr. T dance-off you didn't know you wanted until now' quiz

The top 10 MLB left fielders headed into spring training 2017

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 20 or more games in the 1980s

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in MLB

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 20 or more games in a season since 2000

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker