CINCINNATI -- After breezing through the rookie Pioneer League last season, Brewers pitching prospect Tyler Thornburg is doing the same in the Class A Midwest League in 2011. Thornburg, a hard-throwing, six-foot right-hander who has drawn comparisons to Giants ace Tim Lincecum, owns the third-best ERA (1.31) among qualifying pitchers in all of Minor League baseball. Only Rays Triple-A pitcher Alex Cobb (1.14) and Cardinals Class A prospect Kevin Siegrist (1.15) have been better. On Sunday, Thornburg became the first Wisconsin Timber Rattlers pitcher to toss a nine-inning, complete-game shutout since current Mariners phenom Michael Pineda did it on Sept. 1, 2008, in the final game of Seattle's affiliation with the team. Pineda struck out 14 batters in that game, and allowed only one hit.
Thornburg was not quite that good at Kane County, but he was impressive nonetheless. He struck out eight, didn't walk a batter and scattered five hits -- only one to the outfield -- in a 2-0 win. He has yet to lose a decision in nine starts. The Brewers typically take a conservative approach in advancing prospects to the next level of the Minor League chain. That's their approach with Thornburg, 22, the team's third-round pick in last year's Draft out of Charleston Southern University. "One of our criteria for advancement is being better than the league, and it has to be demonstrated over time," Brewers player development director Reid Nichols wrote in an e-mail. The Brewers want Midwest League pitchers to show command of the fastball to both sides of the plate, and an ability to throw offspeed pitches for strikes, and between 10-15 percent changeups with command. "His progress and game plan are being discussed," Nichols said. "We are working very hard to get pitching to Milwaukee, but we want them to stay when they get there. Our ultimate goal is to mold a perennial All-Star."