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.