Thornburg looking to finish season strong

Thornburg looking to finish season strong

CINCINNATI -- Tyler Thornburg recorded only one out and threw all of six pitches on Thursday, yet it was his biggest outing of the season by far. And not just because Thornburg struck out Aramis Ramirez with a pair of runners on base in the seventh inning of a one-run game.

"First back-to-back this year," Thornburg said.

Pitching on consecutive days was a big deal for the 26-year-old former top Brewers prospect. Thornburg was a standout as Milwaukee charged to the top of the National League standings in early 2014, but the heaviest workload of his career came with a price when he developed a right elbow injury. Thornburg avoided the dreaded Tommy John surgery, but missed the final three months of the 2014 season and spent most of 2015 at Triple-A Colorado Springs, pitching as a starter.

Now he's back in the Brewers bullpen, hoping to make a case for a prominent role in 2016. Thursday's outing marked only Thornburg's second "high leverage" appearance, and he was rewarded with his first hold after the Brewers held on to beat the Pirates, 5-3.

He struck out Ramirez with a 94-mph fastball above the strike zone.

"It felt like when I was pitching in those games last April," Thornburg said. "Obviously, you'd rather pitch in those kind of games.

"It's been pretty much a battle this year, trying to stay healthy. It's weird; lately my arm has been feeling better than it did early in the year or the middle of the season. I feel like as long as I can get through this year healthy and get a good offseason in, coming into next year I should have everything back being 'me' again."

Manager Craig Counsell shares the same goal.

"You want to be aware of [the elbow] still, because I think he's done a really nice job getting through it and putting it behind him," Counsell said. "So I would really like him to finish that, and go into the offseason with that behind him."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.