Lewis Thorpe labored for two years through Tommy John surgery and a lengthy bout with mononucleosis to make it back for the start of the 2017 campaign. The Twins No. 11 prospect proved the hard work was worth it Thursday night.Thorpe fanned a career-high 12 batters and allowed only one
Lewis Thorpe labored for two years through Tommy John surgery and a lengthy bout with mononucleosis to make it back for the start of the 2017 campaign. The Twins No. 11 prospect proved the hard work was worth it Thursday night.
Thorpe fanned a career-high 12 batters and allowed only one hit and a walk over seven scoreless innings as Double-A Chattanooga defeated Biloxi, 12-2, at AT&T Field. The seven innings tied Thorpe's longest pro outing in which he struck out 11 Jupiter batters on Aug. 31, 2017 for Class A Advanced Fort Myers.
Gameday box score
"We saw his talent before he got hurt and all the different things he had to endure. He's starting to show that," Twins vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "We're trying to bring out that talent we know he has, so this is nice to see for him. Hopefully it gives him a great boost and a shot of confidence and inspires him to keep on going."
The Australian southpaw jumped out to a quick start, firing 4 2/3 perfect frames with first 11 punchouts of the contest. He struck out the side in the third, beginning a streak in which he fanned seven of his next eight opponents. The streak was snapped when Blake Allemand grounded a single to center in the fifth. But Thorpe induced Tyler Heineman to line out to end the frame.
The 22-year-old walked Brewers No. 7 prospect Trent Grisham with one out in the sixth, then sat down his final five batters. He needed only 10 pitches to finish off the seventh, inducing groundouts from top Brewers prospect Keston Hiura and 17th-ranked Jake Gatewood before No. 3 Lucas Erceg popped out. Thorpe threw 84 pitches, 60 for strikes, after giving up 16 hits and 11 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings in his previous two starts.
"Maybe this is the beginning of the final push that we all hope and believe is possible," Radcliff said. "It's just one performance and just another piece in this long journey. But he's gone through so much that to have something like this can spur a guy on."
Radcliff said the Melbourne native needed some time to find himself last season. With low-90s velocity on his fastball, Thorpe had to establish a mix of his secondary pitches and fine-tune his command in order to be effective. The Twins continued to use him as a starter in hopes that, despite the time off, Thorpe still possessed the big league-level talent they saw in him when he was signed as an international free agent on July 12, 2012.
He finished 2017 with a 2.93 ERA through 83 innings. He gave up four runs on five hits over six innings in his Double-A debut on Aug. 20. After a solid Spring Training, Minnesota officials gave him the opportunity to start 2018 with the Lookouts, where he's recorded a 4.26 ERA over 14 games.
Radcliff emphasized he's taking Thursday's start at face value, but he wasn't afraid to ponder Thorpe's ceiling.
"Spring Training was a big deal when we finally saw his capability again, the better pitches, better finish, better snap, better fastball," he said. "He's got the physical things back in place, and now he has to hone his craft.
"We think he can start for us. It's easy to go to the bullpen with a guy who's been out that long and have him throw an inning or two, but we think he has starting potential. He has a ways to go, but this was good."
Jimmy Kerrigan led the Lookouts at the plate with four hits, four runs and two RBIs while Chris Paul doubled twice on a three-hit night and notched six RBIs.
Nathan Brown is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @NathanBrownNYC.