Friday, September 12, 2014

A pitching prospect's elbow

Lewis Thorpe turns
19 in November.
Lewis Thorpe is an 18-year-old left-handed pitcher, and a talented one.

The Twins signed him out of Australia as a 16-year-old, and they've been careful with his workload: 44 innings last season in the rookie Gulf Coast League, 71 innings this year in Cedar Rapids after spending much of the first half of the season in extended spring training.

He was 3-2, 3.52 for the Kernels, with 80 strikeouts, which is pretty solid to start with. Add in that he was about 4 years younger than the average pitcher in the Midwest League and that his ERA in his final 10 starts (16 total) was 2.40 with 60 strikeouts in 45 innings ... well, he was living up to some lofty rankings in the Twins organization.

And then he was warming up for a start in the Midwest League playoffs and felt something in the elbow.

The diagnosis: A strained ulnar collateral ligament. The UCL is the one replaced in Tommy John surgery.

Thorpe was examined in the Twin Cities on Thursday, and the verdict was in favor of rehab over cutting. He'll report next week to the instructional camp as scheduled.

We can hope the docs are right and he doesn't need Tommy John. But a strained elbow is still an elbow with ligament damage. TNSTAAPP -- There's No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect.

The Twins handled Thorpe carefully. He got only a partial season at age 18 and was kept on a tight pitch count, averaging less than five innings a start. (Getting credit for three wins under such circumstances is pretty impressive; a starter can lose a game pitching less than five innings but can't get the win.) He got hurt anyway.

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