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Lesser Brewers: Tyler Thornburg

Tyler Thornburg excelled in his transition to the bullpen, but an elbow injury limited his effectiveness and eventually ended his season.

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Tyler Thornburg entered the 2014 season with an unclear role on the Brewers. He started the 2013 season in Nashville, was called up for the Brewers bullpen, but finished in the rotation. Also, his last four starts of 2013 were very encouraging, giving hope to the possibility that he could be a full-time starter. However, when Matt Garza was signed in the offseason, it meant that there was no space in the rotation for Thornburg, and his place would be in the bullpen.

The full-time move to the bullpen paid immediate dividends for the Brewers. Thornburg flourished in April, posting a 0.61 ERA and a 1.84 FIP. The only run he allowed was in his first appearance, and he did not allow a run in April after that. His success pushed him into a setup role, where he handled the seventh and eighth innings. Everything appeared to be going well for him.

However, he came back down to earth hard in May. He posted a 6.00 ERA and 5.63 FIP, allowing runs in six of his eleven appearances. Then, after giving up five runs in an appearance against the Pirates in June, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow soreness. After he went on the DL, it was revealed that he had been pitching with it for a few weeks, which could explain his drop in effectiveness. Unfortunately, he never recovered from it and received a platelet-rich plasma injection in August in hopes of avoiding surgery.

So far, we haven't heard any indications that anything went wrong following the injection, so the hope is that Thornburg will be ready for spring training. What we saw from him in April was impressive, and if he can produce something close to that going forward, he could be a key piece of the bullpen for several years.

Best Game

In the month of April, Tyler Thornburg made 14 appearances, pitching 14 2/3 innings and posting a 0.61 ERA and a 1.84 FIP. His best appearance of the month may have been his last one. On Tuesday, April 29, the Brewers were playing in St. Louis and had the game tied at 4-4 entering the ninth inning. They called on Tyler Thornburg out of the bullpen, and he was stellar that day. He pitched two innings, throwing 36 pitches over those two innings. He struck out four in those two innings, allowing a total of one baserunner on a walk. The Brewers would then take the lead in the top of the 11th inning and hold on to win 5-4.

Contract Status

After the 2014 season, Tyler Thornburg is at just under 2 years of MLB service, with 1 year and 146 days accumulated. He will get another pre-arbitration contract for 2015, and then his service time may qualify him for Super 2 status in 2016, meaning early arbitration. If not, he will be arbitration-eligible in 2017 and will be a free agent for the 2020 season.