Thornburg victorious in Triple-A debut

After big league start, Brewers prospect pitches five innings

Right-hander Tyler Thornburg went five innings in his Triple-A debut. (Allison Rhoades/Redbirds)

By Danny Wild / | July 4, 2012 7:43 PM ET

Tyler Thornburg learned a few weeks ago that he was finally getting the promotion to Triple-A for which he'd been waiting. Then, unexpectedly, he took a brief detour -- to Milwaukee.

Now he's sleeping on couches in Nashville.

Thornburg finally made his Triple-A debut Wednesday, 15 days after getting a spot start in his Major League debut on June 19. The Brewers' No. 4 prospect was quickly optioned back to the Minors after a no-decision against Toronto and he saw his first action with Nashville on Wednesday, going five innings for the win.

While it was a path most pitchers don't take, it was an opportunity Thornburg won't forget.

"It's been a pretty hectic couple weeks or so, my car is still packed, I haven't unpacked my bags even," said Thornburg, who'd been on the Triple-A disabled list since June 25. "I haven't found a place to stay in Nashville yet, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Against Memphis, the Cardinals' top affiliate, Thornburg (1-0) allowed two runs on six hits, throwing 49 of 66 pitches for strikes. He fanned six and did not walk a batter in his first outing since serving up four homers in 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays at Miller Park.

So after crashing on teammates' couches and sampling Nashville-area motels, Thornburg finally felt at home.

"It was good. I've been on the DL for a couple weeks, so this was good," he said. "I wish I could have gone deeper into the game, but I had a lowered pitch count."

Thornburg's two mistakes Wednesday came, oddly enough, against Memphis starter Brandon Dickson. The Redbirds right-hander hit an RBI single in the third and a run-scoring double in the fifth.

"I definitely felt good, didn't miss a beat," Thornburg said. "I was kind of wondering what to expect after such a layoff, but I felt good."

Thornburg, a 2010 third-round pick, struck out four over the first two frames before Pete Kozma singled, stole second and scored in the third. He worked a 1-2-3 fourth, striking out Cardinals top third base prospect Zack Cox to end the inning. But Mark Hamilton's leadoff double in the fifth led to Dickson's second RBI of the night.

"The pitcher got both RBIs," Thornburg said with a laugh. "That the first time I've given up a hit to a pitcher, and they both went for runs."

Thornburg, who hit a double in his big league debut, went 8-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 13 starts at Double-A Huntsville. The plan was for him to attend the Southern League All-Star Game on June 19, then drive to Nashville.

Tyler Thornburg speaks with the media after making his Major League debut.

But when Shaun Marcum experienced tightness in his pitching elbow, the Brewers called on Thornburg to face Toronto. He cruised through five innings before allowing consecutive homers to Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. After the game, Milwaukee recalled right-hander Mike McClendon and sent Thornburg to Nashville.

"I'm just hotel-hopping at the moment," the Houston native said. "A couple guys let me sleep on their couch, so I've been doing that."

Such is the glamorous life of a Major Leaguer-turned-Triple-A ace. And Thornburg is soaking it up.

"The Major League experience was awesome," he said. "I learned what you can and can't do, and that helped me mature a lot as far as knowing how to pitch at that level. It helped me a lot at the Triple-A level -- pitching here, it's a very similar way of pitching.

"It's a little different in Triple-A, you have your young prospects and some older guys, former Major Leaguers that have been around a while, so it's a lot of different mixes."

Thornburg is his own category in that regard, a 23-year-old at the top of Milwaukee's list of prospects when the need arises. He's not sure what the plan is moving forward.

"I think they're just taking it start by start, the same way they would have before [going up]," he said. "I'm very fortunate with the situation, to get called up. I think they'll treat it like it never happened."

It did happen, and Thornburg will be ready for the next time.

Danny Wild is an editor for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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